Cloture Vote On Hagel Nomination Fails, For Now

Late this afternoon, the Senate failed to invoke cloture on the nomination of Chuck Hagel to be Secretary of Defense, but both sides seem to concede that his confirmation is still inevitable:

Senate Republicans delivered a sharp rebuke to President Obama on Thursday when they began an unprecedented filibuster of Chuck Hagel‘s nomination as secretary of defense.

The confirmation process stalled Thursday when GOP senators deprived Hagel of the 60 votes needed to move it to its final stages. Republicans said they were seeking a delay so they could look more closely at the nominee.

Both sides still think the former GOP senator from Nebraska will confirmed, but the filibuster brought stark condemnations from Obama and Senate Democrats, who decried it as partisan obstruction.

The move was one more signal of how times have changed in the once-clubby Senate. Democrats say they think that some senior Republicans facing reelection in 2014 are so fearful of conservative primary challenges that they will ignore the bipartisan traditions of the Senate to be more in line with junior GOP senators elected on the strength of tea party affiliations. The result is that hoped-for bipartisan deals on such issues as immigration and budget matters could be harder to reach.

“It’s just unfortunate that this kind of politics intrudes at a time when I’m still presiding over a war in Afghanistan and I need a secretary of defense who is coordinating with our allies” Obama said Thursday in an online forum hosted by Google.

“What seems to be happening, and this has been growing over time, is the Republican minority in the Senate seems to think that the rule now is that you need to have 60 votes for everything. Well, that’s not the rule.”

Republicans denied that their actions constituted a filibuster because they expect Hagel to be confirmed, and insisted that they will allow a simple majority vote on the nomination later this month.

They said they stalled the nomination because they want more information about Hagel’s post-Senate career, including foreign policy speeches he delivered and his work with private investment groups.

The clash marked an escalation in nomination wars dating to the 1980s, crossing into an area that has most retained an aura of bipartisanship on Capitol Hill: national security.

The Hagel fight also demonstrated the depth of ongoing Republican concerns about the Sept. 11 attack on a U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya, that killed four Americans, including Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens. Several GOP senators initially said they wanted more information about the attacks in exchange for approving the nomination.

Such demands are not uncommon, but usually involve delaying confirmation for lower-level Cabinet posts or deputy secretary positions while senators seek information or rulings on regulations from the White House.

“This isn’t high school, getting ready for a football game or some play that’s being produced at high school. This is — we’re trying to confirm somebody to run the defense of our country, the military of our country,” an angry Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) said during a floor speech Thursday morning.

As things stand right now, the Senate will take this matter up again on February 26th when it comes back from its Presidents Day recess, which for some odd reason lasts for an entire week.

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Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. Just 'nutha ig'rant cracker says:

    which for some odd reason lasts for an entire week.

    Nothing odd here at all. Think of it as a give to the American people–7 full days where the Republicans are not obstructing anything. No business is being conducted either, but that’s a feature, not a glitch.

  2. legion says:

    There is literally nothing which will shame or embarrass a Republican. Nothing.

  3. matt bernius says:

    Again, as a number of folks have pointed out, this is really about Graham’s seat. Being the “lone voice/leader of the Hagel opposition” helps establish Graham’s bona fides.

    By many accounts, Graham is going to face a primary challenge from the extreme Right. And I suspect that the GOP, on the national level, after looking at recent history in Alaska*, Maryland, and Indiana (not to mention Missouri), decided that — in statewide elections — the moderate incumbent you know is a safer bet than the untested firebrand whose going to say dumb stuff and turn your seat over to the opposition.

    * – I realize that in the case of Alaska it went to an “independent”/former Republican. But the general point still holds, the firebrand winner of the primary didn’t win the general.

  4. Xenos says:

    Republicans are really asking for trouble here. The senate will have to be run as a zero-sum game, now. Eventually we will have to function without cabinet secretaries, ambassodors, and judges. As all the independant authorities drie up, all you get left with is an administration that is really just the President. They are making Obama into the despot they claim to fear.

  5. legion says:

    @matt bernius: I’d be happy if Graham just had a primary challenge from the Human Race. He’s really taking the lead for “Single Most Useless Member of Congress”, which is a pretty high bar…

  6. Fiona says:

    My favorite excuse was McCain’s, which amounted to he voted against cloture because Hagel once said bad things about President Bush and the surge. The Republican Party is the party of spoiled, petulant children.

  7. john personna says:

    It’s like in nominating Hagel, Obama handed the Republicans a hand grenade, and they pulled the pin, throwing away the pin.

    Could any other nomination have revealed so much about GOP bankruptcy?

  8. maggie says:

    “It is inevitable that he will be confirmed” What a clown show, what a waste of taxpayer money, what a sad reminder of what we have allowed our Congressional branch to become!
    Between lobbyists money and jerry-mandered districts, there is not a congressional member in either party with the balls or ovaries to stand for anything. They can only stand for their TRUE convictions, which are ” This is a plum job, I do nothing but grade B acting, take money from strangers and sell out America and I get rich in the process and set up financially for life on the tax payer dollar ! Woohoo! What a sweet ride!”

  9. john personna says:

    I thought this Rod Dreher piece was good, putting the Hagel fight in context of Republican Decline and Fall

    What Is Wrong With These People?

  10. al-Ameda says:

    it probably would not bother me very much if the entire Republican congressional delegation were lost at sea on a failed Carnival Cruise.