Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnellMitch McConnellThe Trump Administration has definitely not drained the swamp How does placing sanctions on Russia help America? THE MEMO: Trump's wild first month MORE (R-Ky.) refused to rule out a GOP filibuster of former Sen. Chuck HagelChuck HagelWho will temper Trump after he takes office? Hagel: I’m ‘encouraged’ by Trump’s Russia outreach Want to 'drain the swamp'? Implement regular order MORE (R-Neb.) in an interview with a local Kentucky TV station this weekend.
McConnell said it was “not clear yet” whether Hagel’s confirmation to become President Obama’s next Defense secretary would be filibustered, and said opposition to Hagel was “intensifying.”
McConnell’s remarks could add new fuel to a potential filibuster of a Cabinet nominee, an unprecedented step in the Senate. An aide to the No. 2 Senate Republican, Minority Whip John CornynJohn CornynAngst in GOP over Trump's trade agenda Republicans play clean up on Trump's foreign policy Comey meets Intel senators amid uproar over Trump-Russia ties MORE (R-Texas), said Friday that “all options are on the table” when asked about a filibuster.
Hagel was skewered by Republicans at his confirmation hearing last week, and several GOP lawmakers said they would oppose him afterward. But he will almost assuredly be confirmed if Republicans do not filibuster, as no Democrats have come out against his confirmation and they hold a 55-45 advantage in the Senate.
Even if Republicans do attempt a filibuster, Hagel could secure enough votes to break it. Sen. Mike JohannsMike JohannsTo buy a Swiss company, ChemChina must pass through Washington Republican senator vows to block nominees over ObamaCare co-ops Revisiting insurance regulatory reform in a post-crisis world MORE (R-Neb.) became the second Republican senator to say he would support Hagel after Sen. Thad CochranThad CochranMulvaney sworn in as White House budget chief Senate confirms Mulvaney to be Trump’s budget chief McCain announces opposition to Trump's pick for budget chief MORE (R-Miss.) endorsed him last week.
McConnell has not said how he will vote on Hagel's confirmation, but told cn|2 he would announce his decision soon. McConnell, who served with Hagel in the Senate, called his former colleague a "smart, capable guy" in an interview last week before the confirmation hearing.
The first step for Hagel’s confirmation is a committee vote, which could come as early as this week. Democrats hold a 14-12 advantage on the committee.