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Congress: Hagel committee vote set

Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK), ranking member of the Armed Services Committee, is threatening to delay a confirmation vote for Chuck Hagel to become defense secretary. “I’ll do that for as long as it takes,” he told National Review. “I’m going to make sure there is a 60-vote margin.” He added, “Hagel may be passed out of the committee, but it’s going to be a long, long time before he hits the floor. We’re going to need as much time as possible, and there are going to be several of us who will have holds. … “Each day that goes by will make it more difficult for Democrats who say they are pro-Israel to hold out. I want everyone to be very clear about his past statements and his positions.”

Even Inhofe, however, concedes Hagel will “definitely” make it out of the committee vote which is set to take place Tuesday beginning at 2:30 pm ET. And so everyone’s clear, here’s what a “hold” actually is, as defined by the U.S. Senate: “An informal practice by which a senator informs his or her floor leader that he or she does not wish a particular bill or other measure to reach the floor for consideration. The majority leader need not follow the senator's wishes, but is on notice that the opposing senator may filibuster any motion to proceed to consider the measure.”

The Senate does a lot of work by unanimous consent, a.k.a. UC. Post office namings, many political appointees requiring Senate approval, for example, are voted on by UC. A “hold,” in other words, is a way for a senator to “object.” It can slow the process down, because a senator is indicating he or she intends to try and require 60 votes for a bill or, in Hagel’s case, a vote, to advance. In many cases the threat of slowing down Senate business is enough for a majority leader to pull the legislation because it’s not worth the fight, Senate aides told First Read. But if the White House wants the fight and the votes are there in the Senate to overcome a potential filibuster, a hold may slow things down, but can’t prevent approval.

The Hill says the squabbling is “threatening the panel’s bipartisan reputation.”

Roll Call: “If President Barack Obama has soured on pointless haggling with congressional Republicans, the feeling is mutual. So after Tuesday evening’s post-State of the Union platitudes about working together have been dispensed with, expect House and Senate Republicans to go their own way, ignoring Obama and his demands as much as possible.” A congressional aide says Inhofe is not encouraging a walkout of the Hagel vote.

John McCain, the term-limited ranking member on the committee, said he would not support such a move.

Menendez watch: “Government watchdog groups say Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) should recuse himself from congressional deliberations on Medicare billing and port security in the Dominican Republic,” The Hill writes. “These groups say Menendez should steer clear of these issues while the Senate Ethics Committee investigates whether he improperly helped a donor who took him on private plane trips to the Dominican Republic.”