By Jeremy Herb
Senate Democratic leaders have moved to clear former Sen. Chuck Hagel’s (R-Neb.) nomination by Thursday even as Republicans are ramping up their threats to block it.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said Monday he would move Hagel’s nomination as Defense secretary quickly to the floor following a Tuesday vote by the Senate Armed Services Committee.
Reid said he expected a floor vote on Wednesday or Thursday and was “confident” that there would not be a filibuster, despite the Republicans’ rhetoric.
“There’s never in the history of the country ever been a filibuster on a Defense secretary, and I’m confident there won’t be on this one,” Reid said.
“Sen. Hagel has operated in good faith, provided a great deal of information from the committee, and now it’s time to stop moving the goal posts and just vote,” the official said. “The Republicans are trying to delay a confirmation that is at this point inevitable.”
Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin (D-Mich.) announced his panel would vote on Tuesday despite threats from ranking Republican Sen. James Inhofe (Okla.) and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) to hold up Hagel.
Inhofe warned Monday he would force a 60-vote majority on Hagel’s confirmation.
“All I want is a 60-vote margin,” Inhofe said. “I’m entitled to it.”
“By my count, the people who find Hagel objectionable are such a number that he could be defeated, and I think his nomination should be defeated,” he said, though he added that he didn’t know whether he had enough votes to do so. “I feel a responsibility, because of all the things that we’ve been talking about, to do what I can to see that Chuck Hagel is not confirmed secretary of Defense.”
But Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) told reporters Monday he was encouraging his Senate colleagues not to filibuster Hagel’s nomination.
“It sets a wrong precedent,” McCain said. “Some day we will have a Republican president. Some day we may even have a majority in the United States Senate.”
Inhofe, who has said he is voting against Hagel, has no plans to walk out on the committee vote, an aide said, after there were reports Sunday that Republicans were considering such a move.He told National Review on Monday that Hagel would be reported out of committee, but that he and other Republicans would focus on delaying the floor vote.
“Hagel may be passed out of the committee, but it’s going to be a long, long time before he hits the floor,” Inhofe said. “We’re going to need as much time as possible, and there are going to be several of us who will have holds.”
Inhofe’s predecessor as top Republican on the Armed Services panel, McCain, also recoiled at the prospect of a walkout, a McCain aide said.
“In his 26 years as a member of the committee he has never walked out of a vote, and he won’t walk out on this one,” the aide told The Hill. “It would be disrespectful to Chairman Levin and to the best traditions of the Senate Armed Services Committee.”
Later Monday, McCain issued a statement saying that Hagel “has fulfilled the rigorous requirements” the committee demands of every Defense secretary nominee.
“I believe it is appropriate for the Armed Services Committee to vote on Senator Hagel’s nomination and determine whether to move this nomination to the Senate floor,” McCain said.
Republicans cannot stop a committee vote on their own, as Levin can hold a vote with a quorum of 14 of the 26 members — the number of Democrats on the panel.
Only two Republicans have so far said they would support Hagel: Sens. Mike Johanns (Neb.) and Thad Cochran (Miss.). Neither is on the Armed Services panel.
In addition to Inhofe, Graham has threatened a hold on both Hagel and Obama’s CIA director nominee, John Brennan, until the White House discloses more information about the response to last year’s terrorist attack in Benghazi, Libya.
Asked Monday about the possible holds over Benghazi, White House press secretary Jay Carney said that delaying the nominations of Hagel and Brennan “does harm to national security.”
“We have answered these questions,” Carney said of Benghazi. “What is unfortunate here is the continuing attempt to politicize an issue, in this case through nominees that themselves had nothing to do with Benghazi.”
Levin had hoped to hold a vote on Hagel’s nomination in committee last week, but that was delayed after 25 Republicans sent Hagel a letter demanding more financial information about organizations he was affiliated with.
Levin held off on the vote but wrote a letter back to the Republicans saying that the information they were requesting went beyond the committee rules.
Nevertheless, The Atlantic Council, where Hagel is chairman, released a list of its foreign corporate and government donors on Friday on behalf of Hagel.
However, a Senate GOP aide said Friday that this did not meet the senators’ demands because it did not contain individual foreign donors.
— Published at 11:43 a.m. and last updated at 8:26 p.m.