Senate Republicans Block Chuck Hagel Nomination – for Now
Senate Republicans on Thursday blocked -- for now -- Chuck Hagel's nomination to lead the Pentagon, marking the first time the chamber has successfully filibustered a Cabinet nominee.
Hagel failed to garner the 60 votes necessary to advance to a final confirmation vote. His nomination is still expected to be taken up at a later date, but Republicans mounted an unprecedented opposition, mostly over demands that the White House provide more information about the Libya terror attack.
Hagel was just shy of clearing the 60-vote bar. The finally tally was 58-40, with one senator voting present. For procedural reasons, Democratic Leader Harry Reid switched his vote to "no" at the last minute -- a routine move that allows him to bring up the vote later on.
Some Republicans said Thursday that they would be willing to ultimately allow for an up-or-down vote -- which requires only a simple majority -- once they get more answers on Libya from the administration and once lawmakers return from recess. They return the last week of February.
"There are still questions outstanding," Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., said on the floor, asking for "sufficient time" to get those answers.
The battle on the floor of the Senate Thursday was historic. The Senate has never successfully filibustered a Cabinet secretary. Only two previous Cabinet officials required 60 votes before confirmation, and this has never happened for a Defense secretary nominee. Democrats hold a 55-45 edge in the Senate and have the numbers to confirm Hagel on a majority vote, if allowed to get to that point.
Republicans already are almost uniformly opposed to Hagel. But with the leverage of a 60-vote threshold, they are also demanding the White House provide more information about what President Obama was doing on the night of the Benghazi terror attack.
Some Republican lawmakers predicted to Fox News that Hagel would ultimately get confirmed -- but it won't happen this week.