After months of fighting, former Sen. Chuck Hagel's nomination to be defense secretary finally overcame a Republican filibuster this afternoon with a 71-27 vote, clearing the final obstacle to confirmation.
Republican Sens. John McCain and Lindsey Graham were some of Hagel's most outspoken critics, but ultimately relented and voted for cloture to break their colleagues' obstruction. The Senate had tried to get the 60 votes needed for cloture two weeks ago, but fell short when only a three Republicans joined Democrats.
Today, however, Republicans apparently realized they were on the losing side of the battle and 18 of them joined the Democrats, giving the majority more than enough votes to end debate and proceed to final passage. An unprecedented amount of money had been spent trying to sink Hagel's nomination.
Shortly after the vote, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid announced that the chamber would reconvene at 4:30 this afternoon to vote on final passage, which only requires a simple majority of 51 votes. Many of the Republicans who voted for cloture may not vote for final passage.