Hagel Halted, For Now

by Andrew Stiles

Senate Republicans have, at least temporarily, blocked Chuck Hagel’s nomination for secretary of defense.

A vote to end debate on Hagel’s nomination on Thursday failed 58–40, just short of the required 60-vote threshold. Four Republicans — Thad Cochran (Miss.), Susan Collins (Maine), Mike Johanns (Neb.), and Lisa Murkowski (Alaska) — voted to advance the nomination. Senator Orrin Hatch (R., Utah) voted present.

Democrats effectively came up just one vote shy of advancing Hagel’s nomination, as the 58-vote “yes” total resulted from Senate majority leader Harry Reid’s switching his vote from yes to no, a procedural tactic that allows him to bring up the nomination for another vote.

The Senate will not vote again on Hagel’s nomination until after the week after next, when members return from recess. Immediately following the vote, several Republicans indicated that Hagel will likely be confirmed after the break. “I think it’s appropriate to wait until we come back,” said Senator John McCain, adding that he will vote to advance Hagel’s nomination the second time around. “There’s plenty of time to have any further questions answered.” Senator Bob Corker (R., Tenn.) said he would be open to a simply majority vote.

Corker also told National Review Online it was his understanding that both Reid and Vice President Joe Biden, who had been making calls to Capitol Hill throughout the day, were fine with delaying the vote on Hagel’s nomination, but President Obama had insisted the vote be held today — a claim Reid’s office called “categorically false.”

Earlier today, Reid said the Senate would hold a vote Friday morning, but then he abruptly rescheduled the vote for this afternoon. Throughout the day, Reid repeated the false claim that the GOP effort to block Hagel’s confirmation would leave the United States without a secretary of defense.

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