Republicans threatening Hagel filibuster

After a divided Senate committee voted to confirm Hagel, Republicans are threatening to force a cloture vote

Topics: Chuck Hagel, Defense Secretary, Lindsey Graham, Mitch McConnell, Harry Reid, Filibuster,

The Senate Armed Services Committee voted 14-11 in favor of Chuck Hagel’s nomination to Defense Secretary, following a contentious hearing on Tuesday. But Republicans are now threatening to force a cloture vote on the nomination when it comes up before the full Senate, and have accused Harry Reid of “jamming” the nomination through instead of honoring a Republican delay on the vote.

“This is a controversial nominee. I think they are jamming the vote,” Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said, the National Journal reports. “Our caucus believes that having cloture on Hagel this soon with this many unanswered questions and the administration stonewalling is inappropriate by Harry Reid.”

Graham had attempted to block the vote on Hagel until more questions could be answered, but Senate Majority Leader Reid, D-Nev., said he wouldn’t honor the hold. So Republicans are considering a filibuster to force the nomination to get a cloture vote, meaning Hagel would have to clear 60 votes before he can get an up-or-down vote in the Senate. It would only take one senator to make this happen.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if we do have a cloture vote on the Hagel nomination. We’ll see,” said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky. “There are a number of members of the committee who feel that the requests for information have not yet been met. I don’t know whether that’s the view of everyone in our conference, but it’s certainly the view of some.”

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“We are going to see to it that he has a 60-vote threshold and by doing that, there are going to have to be 60 votes out of the United States Senate who want him to be secretary of Defense,” said James Inhofe, R-Okla., who had said during the Armed Services hearing that Hagel was “cozy” with “terrorist type countries referring to Iran. I’d say he’s endorsed by them. You can’t get any cozier than that.”

But, as the New York Times reports:

The tactic could prove mainly symbolic, however, because at least 60 senators, including some of those who voted against him on Tuesday, have indicated that they will allow his nomination to come to the Senate floor.

Even as Mr. Inhofe threatened to draw the process out, the Senate majority leader, Harry Reid, was preparing to hold a vote as early as Wednesday night. Still, Senate Democrats said that given the late timing of the committee vote, they did not expect Mr. Hagel’s nomination to reach the Senate floor until Thursday morning.

Even Inhofe said of Hagel’s confirmation, “I don’t know if I can stop it.”

Jillian Rayfield is an Assistant News Editor for Salon, focusing on politics. Follow her on Twitter at @jillrayfield or email her at jrayfield@salon.com.

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