GOP Aide: Hagel Might Not Have Enough Republican Votes to Beat Filibuster

by Andrew Stiles

The Senate Armed Services Committee will vote Tuesday on Chuck Hagel’s nomination for secretary of defense, committee chairman Carl Levin (D., Mich.) announced today.

Reports suggest Levin has grown tired of requests for details about the various groups Hagel spoken for and received compensation from, as well as GOP threats to filibuster the nomination until more information is disclosed about the September 11 attacks in Benghazi and the administration’s response. One Republican aide said Levin’s decision to rush through a committee vote was an effort to “snuff the momentum” building in opposition to the Hagel’s nomination.

Levin had originally scheduled a committee vote for last Thursday, but he abruptly cancelled it amid speculation of increasing Democratic hesitancy about Hagel’s nomination, as well as mounting criticism from Republicans over Hagel’s refusal to comply with transparency requests.

If and when the committee approves Hagel’s nomination, the full Senate could vote as early as Thursday. The question then becomes whether or not Republicans will, by filibustering, require a 60-vote threshold for confirmation. Senators Jim Inhofe (R., Okla.) and Lindsey Graham (R., S.C.) have openly threatened to do so, and several others have hinted at the possibility.

Democrats would need at least five Republican votes to end a filibuster, a goal that has started to appear increasingly difficult to achieve. “Last week, I was pretty confident that, despite [Hagel’s] horrible showing at the confirmation hearing, he would still probably get to 60 votes,” a GOP Senate aide told National Review Online. “But I think his hiding the ball on [disclosing past associations] is going to hurt his ability get those five Republican votes.”

Hagel supporters have charged that filibustering a cabinet nominee would be unprecedented, but that simply is not true. In 2006, for example, Democrats filibustered the nomination of Dirk Kempthorne, President George W. Bush’s choice for secretary of the interior. 

There is nothing Republicans can do to prevent Hagel’s nomination from passing out of the committee, which Democrats control. However, Senate sources confirm that several GOP members of the committee are mulling a walkout of Tuesday’s vote in protest, although Senator John McCain (R., Ariz.) has argued against the idea, calling it “disrespectful to Chairman Levin and at odds with the best traditions of the Senate Armed Services Committee.”

McCain said in a statement Monday that while he shared many of his colleagues’ concerns about Hagel’s nomination, Levin’s decision to hold the vote was “appropriate.”

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