Though Chuck Hagel’s confirmation to Defense Secretary is almost inevitable, Republicans are threatening to draw out the process to try to force the Administration to provide more information about the attacks on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi.
On Tuesday, the Senate Armed Services Committee voted to approve Hagel’s nomination by a party-line vote. But now Republicans like John McCain, R-Ariz., and Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., are threatening to block Hagel’s confirmation, not to mention that of John Brennan, until the White House responds to their demands for more information.
“This is the first time in the history of our country that a presidential nominee for secretary of defense has been filibustered,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said on the senate floor. “What a shame. But that’s the way it is.”
“There’s nothing unusual about this,” said Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla. “There’s not a filibuster.”
In an attempt to get Hagel installed as secretary of defense before next week’s recess, the majority leader set up a Friday vote to cut off debate, setting up a crucial 60-vote test. If Reid can find five Republicans to join the 55 members of the Democratic Caucus, the Senate could approve Hagel quickly — possibly Saturday or earlier.
But if he can’t, the White House could be forced to recalibrate its strategy as the nomination drags out into late February. And that could give the GOP more time to mount opposition to Hagel’s nomination, which has been targeted because of the former Nebraska senator’s past comments on Iran, Iraq and Israel and his shaky performance at his confirmation hearings.
But the New York Times reports that Republicans’ efforts may be futile:
Even if Republicans succeeded in dragging out the vote into the weekend, Democrats said they remained confident that he would be confirmed by Saturday because Republicans did not appear to have the 40 votes necessary to block the nomination. Such a move would be an extraordinary step, and one that Republicans seem wary of taking should they find themselves in the White House four years from now.
“I think we will hold the line if there’s a vote this week,” said Sen. John Thune, R-S.D. “Because there are enough of our members on the committee and some who aren’t that they aren’t being responsive and are not getting the information they had asked for.”