Hagel and Obama in Amman 2008 Paul Richards AFP
Chuck Hagel’s nomination for Secretary of Defense has been put on ice for 10 days as Democrats failed to get the 60 votes needed to end a Republican filibuster. The final vote was 58-40.
Senate Republicans on Thursday blocked a vote to confirm former Senator Chuck Hagel as secretary of defense, arguing that Democrats were trying to rush a choice that they needed more time to consider.
In a 58-to-40 vote that broke down almost strictly along party lines, Mr. Hagel, a Republican, fell just short of the 60 votes needed to cut off debate and clear the way for final consideration of his nomination. Republicans said they intended to allow a vote on their former colleague when the Senate returns from a break in 10 days, but Democrats said the Republican position amounted to a historic filibuster of the nominee for a post that is usually filled with bipartisan support.
Democrats vowed to hold another vote when the Senate returns from recess. And all signs indicated that many Republicans who voted against Mr. Hagel on Thursday would not do so then.
Foreign Policy is reporting Democrats are two votes short in the Senate from forcing a vote on Hagel (see more about the parliamentary procedures at play in the original post below):
High noon for Chuck Hagel is coming on Friday morning.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) opened Thursday’s Senate floor session by announcing he will test the Republicans’ filibuster threat and call for a vote to end debate over Hagel’s nomination on Friday morning.
To end debate will require 60 votes. Senate Republicans claim they have the votes to effectively block Hagel’s confirmation, though many concede by now that Hagel is a lock for the job. Democrats believe the handful of votes they need will come, but they are not there yet.
“Senate Republican leadership has informed us that they intend to withhold the votes needed to clear cloture and proceed to a final passage vote on the Hagel nomination,” a Senate Democratic leadership aide told reporters in an email, following Reid’s announcement.
“We need two more votes to get to 60. That’s the state of play right now,” said an official working on Hagel’s nomination. Democrats have 55 votes, plus Sens. Susan Collins (R-ME), Thad Cochran (R-MS), and Mike Johanns, from Hagel’s home state of Nebraska.
The New York Times says “Republicans [are] mounting what appears to be the first filibuster in history against a Pentagon secretary.” More from the Times:
Mr. Hagel, a former Republican senator from Nebraska and decorated Vietnam veteran, had earlier appeared to have at least the 60 votes required to break a Republican filibuster. But Senator John McCain of Arizona and other Republicans who had said they might oppose Mr. Hagel but would not back a filibuster now say they will not support ending debate until they receive more detailed answers to questions about the administration’s response to the attack on the American Consulate in Benghazi, Libya.
Specifically, a group of Republican senators including Mr. McCain and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, have asked the president whether he spoke with anyone in the Libyan government to request assistance during the attack. They say they have not yet received an answer to the questions, which are not directly related to Mr. Hagel. . .
According to the Senate’s historian, Donald A. Ritchie, only 5 percent of presidential cabinet nominees have been blocked or rejected by the Senate. And only twice since 1917, when the Senate’s modern filibuster rules were created, has a cabinet-level nominee been subject to a supermajority vote of 60, as Republicans are forcing with Mr. Hagel.
In the case of Mr. Hagel the opposition is especially striking because senators have traditionally afforded their former colleagues a high level of courtesy. Instead, when Mr. Hagel testified before the Armed Services Committee he was pummeled.
You’d have to be a parliamentary expert to understand the latest turn in the Chuck Hagel nomination to be Secretary of Defense; but apparently Republicans are now stalling the vote on the nominee with a faux-filibuster– endless debate — and Democrats pushing the appointment don’t have the 60 votes to end debate — to pass “cloture.”
The Republicans will abandon their opposition, some have indicated, if President Obama produces more information about the Benghazi embassy attack of last September, or if Chuck Hagel himself produces more documents pertaining to his finances.
Reports say the matter will come to a head tomorrow, with a cloture vote in the Senate and a possible vote on the nominee following Saturday.
Some of the reports:
Sen. Roy Blunt signaled Wednesday that there might be enough votes in the Senate to delay debate on the nomination of Chuck Hagel to lead the Pentagon.Blunt (R-Mo.) said he believes there are 40 votes in the Senate that indicate “it’s too quick to end the debate on this nomination.”
Washington Post‘s Rachel Weiner:
Republicans don’t want to filibuster Chuck Hagel’s nomination to be the next Secretary of Defense. They just want to require a 60-vote threshold to end debate on his confirmation on the floor of the Senate. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has filed for cloture, saying it’s a “shame” that he had to do so.
“We’re going to require a 60-vote threshold,” Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) told Foreign Policy. But, he added, ”It’s not a filibuster. I don’t want to use that word.” Likewise, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) says he now might vote against cloture, which cuts off debate.
A president’s pick for a cabinet post usually requires only a majority vote, leading [Majority Leader Harry] Reid to accuse Senate Republicans of orchestrating a filibuster against a nominee for secretary of defense for the first time in the country’s history.
But the top Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee said it’s not unusual to hold a cabinet nominee to a 60-vote threshold. “It’s not a filibuster,” said Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla. “This has happened (before), and it’s happening again right now.”
At least two of the 45 Republicans in the chamber have said they would vote for Hagel’s confirmation, and several others, including Maine Senator Susan Collins on Wednesday, have said they would not support a procedural tactic to block or delay a vote even though they oppose Hagel’s confirmation.