Sen. Rand Paul's puzzling vote for Chuck Hagel: Smart politics?

The Kentucky Republican was the only senator to vote for both the Hagel filibuster and his confirmation

Sen. Paul says he voted to confirm Hagel after voting to filibuster because it's the president's perogative to choose appointees.
(Image credit: AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

And so the epic battle over Chuck Hagel's nomination to become defense secretary ended with a whimper, not a bang. The Senate easily confirmed the former Republican senator from Nebraska on Tuesday, 58 to 41, with four Republicans joining all present Democrats. That was still by far the least amount of support a successful defense secretary nominee has received since at least the Carter administration, and confirmation came only after one successful GOP filibuster and, on Tuesday, an unsuccessful follow-up. For anyone who's been paying attention to the Hagel drama for the past few weeks, the outcome was no surprise.

Spectators may have noticed one unexpected wrinkle to the Hagel denouement, however: Sen. Rand Paul. Fifteen Republicans voted on Tuesday morning to end the filibuster against Hagel but then went on to oppose his confirmation. Only one, the junior senator from Kentucky, voted the other way: Paul was one of the 27 Republicans who voted to continue the filibuster, but then he surprised just about everyone by joining the "aye" Republicans — Thad Cochran (Miss.), Mike Johanns (Neb.), and Richard Shelby (Ala.) — for the final vote.

Subscribe to The Week

Escape your echo chamber. Get the facts behind the news, plus analysis from multiple perspectives.


Sign up for The Week's Free Newsletters

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

Sign up
To continue reading this article...
Continue reading this article and get limited website access each month.
Get unlimited website access, exclusive newsletters plus much more.
Cancel or pause at any time.
Already a subscriber to The Week?
Not sure which email you used for your subscription? Contact us
Peter Weber, The Week US

Peter has worked as a news and culture writer and editor at The Week since the site's launch in 2008. He covers politics, world affairs, religion and cultural currents. His journalism career began as a copy editor at a financial newswire and has included editorial positions at The New York Times Magazine, Facts on File, and Oregon State University.