Discuss as:

Hagel nomination hits a wall

Senate Republicans have blocked a vote to move forward with former Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel's nomination as Secretary of Defense. Hagel is still expected to be confirmed, however, during another vote. NBC's Brian Williams reports.

Chuck Hagel’s nomination just hit a major obstacle.

Hagel will not have the 60 votes to overcome a filibuster at tomorrow’s scheduled cloture vote, Republican leadership told Majority Leader Harry Reid Thursday, according to a Senate Democratic aide.

"My Republican colleagues had led us to believe they would not filibuster Senator Chuck Hagel's confirmation as Secretary of Defense,” Reid (D-NV) said in a statement released by his office. “But that has changed. Now, Senate Republicans have made it clear they intend to mount a full-scale filibuster, and block the Senate from holding a final passage vote on Senator Hagel's nomination. Make no mistake: Republicans are trying to defeat Senator Hagel's nomination by filibustering while submitting extraneous requests that will never be satisfied."

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid voices his dismay on the House floor Thursday over the filibuster of Chuck Hagel's nomination as U.S. secretary of defense.

All 55 Democrats are supporting Hagel. But just two Republicans have said they would vote for their former colleague, a Republican from Nebraska – Thad Cochran (R-MS) and Mike Johanns (R-NE). Hagel would need three more for his nomination to be able to proceed to an up-or-down vote, which Reid said would happen Saturday.

Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), Roy Blunt (R-MO), and Susan Collins (R-ME) previously said they would not support a filibuster of Hagel, which would have given Hagel enough votes.

“I just do not believe a filibuster is appropriate, and I would oppose such a move," McCain said, adding, "I will try to make that argument to my colleagues.”

But McCain and Blunt have changed their tunes.

Republicans, like Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK), ranking member on the Armed Services Committee that considered Hagel’s nomination, are arguing that what they are doing is not a “filibuster.” They just want more information, they say, on his finances and speeches -- despite the answers Hagel submitted to the standard Senate questionnaire, as well as his contentious hearing.

That's something that caused Armed Services Chairman Carl Levin (D-MI) to accuse Republicans of an "unprecedented" double standard.

McCain, for one, wants more information from the White House on the attacks in Benghazi.

On MSNBC’s The Daily Rundown last week, Blunt was asked if he would support a filibuster of Hagel’s nomination.

“I doubt it; I doubt it,” he said. “I think for somebody who’s going to be there the length of time the president serves, as opposed to a Supreme Court judge, that a majority in the Senate should be able to confirm. I wouldn’t intend to be a part of that majority, but certainly my strong inclination would be that this is a vote that should be done by a majority, rather than a 60-vote standard. And this person is going to leave the day the president leaves. That makes a difference.”

Yet, Blunt’s office contends Blunt’s current position is not a switch.

“He hasn’t changed his original position at all,” said Amber Marchand, Blunt’s spokeswoman. “He’s just pointing out that Senator Hagel and the Obama Admin have not produced all of the information that’s been requested, and there has not been time for a full debate in the Senate, therefore the Senate should not move forward on a vote this week.”

Reid argued Thursday morning on the Senate floor that Republicans were playing politics with national security.

“For the sake of our national security, it’s time to put aside this political theater,” Reid said, accusing them of being more concerned about primaries and the Tea Party.

He said opponents were seeking delay after delay, saying there's been "one stall after another."

Hagel would be just the third cabinet secretary to require the 60 votes to overcome a filibuster. The other two were Dirk Kempthorne, George W. Bush’s nominee for Interior Secretary in 2006, and C. Williams Verity, Ronald Reagan’s pick to be Commerce Secretary in 1987, according to the Congressional Research Service. 

Both, however, were easily confirmed and cleared the cloture hurdle, 85-8.

There has never been a cabinet secretary nominee who was successfully filibustered.

There have, however, been other high-level, non-judicial nominees, who have also required 60 votes.

For example:

2010- Ben Bernanke (Fed Chair, cloture invoked, passed 77-23)
2009- Hilda Solis (Labor, cloture invoked, but withdrawn)
2006- Dirk Kempthorne (Interior, cloture invoked, passed 85-8)
2005- Rob Portman (USTR, cloture invoked, but vitiated)
2005- John Bolton (US Amb to UN, cloture invoked, nomination rejected 54-38)
2005- Steven L. Johnson (EPA administrator, cloture invoked, passed 61-37)
2003- Michael Leavitt (EPA admin, cloture invoked but withdrawn)
1987- C. Willliam Verity (Commerce, cloture invoked, passed 85-8)