Republicans have moved to try to delay a full Senate vote for Chuck Hagel’s nomination as the next secretary of defense after the former Republican senator received a straight party-line vote out of the Senate Armed Services Committee on Tuesday.
Senate leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., attempted to set a full Senate vote for Wednesday evening. When it became apparent that would be impossible because of Republican opposition, he set the vote for Friday after he filed for a cloture.
“This is the first time in the history of the country that a presidential nominee for secretary of defense has been filibustered,” Reid said Wednesday. “What a shame, but that’s the way it is.”
Filing for a cloture means the Democrats will need a super majority, or 60 votes, to end debate and hold the Senate floor vote on Friday. Democrats make up 55 votes in the Senate. Reid and other Democrat leaders have said they are confident they will find the other five votes to end the filibuster.
Republican leaders have said they don’t see their actions as a filibuster. Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., the ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, told Foreign Policy he wouldn’t call it a filibuster even though he said the Republicans will require the 60-votes to end debate. A cloture is the political mechanism required to end a filibuster.
Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., also said he wouldn’t describe the Republicans actions as a filibuster saying a filibuster is a “bad precedent” to set. He is one Republican senator who is considering voting to end the cloture.
Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, who earlier was expected to back Hagel, is another Republican expected to vote to end the debate even though she plans to now vote against Hagel. Collins said she will not vote for him because of his past positions, votes and statements.
Other Republican senators have been more aggressive in their criticism of Hagel and determination to keep him out of the Pentagon. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-SC., said he would “not going to let this go … the debate on Chuck Hagel is not over,” according to USA Today report.
Graham said he wanted answers from the White House on the terrorist attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, before a vote was taken on Hagel. Previously, Graham focused his opposition on Hagel’s past comments about Iran, Israel and the power of the Israel lobby to intimidate politicians.
According to the Senate’s history, the Senate has confirmed “well over 500 Cabinet nominations” since the Washington administration. In all that time, it has rejected only nine, according to the Senate history.
Lawrence Korb, an assistant secretary of defense during the Reagan administration, said the effort to halt Hagel’s nomination is unique.
“Tower lost, but they let him have a vote,” Korb said, recalling the 1989 nomination of former Sen. John Tower, R-Texas, to be secretary of defense. Tower, who was nominated by President George H.W. Bush, was rejected 53 to 47.
“I’ve never seen anything like this. We’ve had people get a lot of votes against them [but still be approved],” he said. One of those was Robert Gates, the secretary of defense prior to Leon Panetta. Gates served twice as the director of the CIA. He received 33 negative votes the first time he was up for directorship.
“To the extent they drag this out it will make the challenges more difficult for [Hagel” if he is finally approved, Korb said. “He’ll be up for it, but it will be more of a challenge.”