Report: McCain won’t back Hagel filibuster

Sen. John McCain on Monday said he would not support GOP efforts to filibuster former Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.), President Obama’s pick for Defense secretary.

“I do not support a filibuster,” McCain (R-Ariz.) said to reporters, according to reports. “I don’t think it’s appropriate, and I would oppose such a move.”

McCain said that he had not decided whether or not he would back Hagel, but support for an up-or-down vote from one of Hagel’s toughest critics could boost the nominee’s chances of winning confirmation.

With Democrats holding a 55-45 vote advantage in the upper chamber, a filibuster would be the only way for Republicans to prevent his confirmation if no Democrats oppose Hagel.

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But even with a filibuster, Hagel would win confirmation if he peels away enough GOP support. Thus far, two GOP lawmakers, Sens. Mike Johanns (Neb.) and Thad Cochran (Miss.), have endorsed him.

Senate GOP leaders, however, said yesterday that are not ruling out a filibuster yet.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said over the weekend that it was “not clear” if Hagel would be filibustered, and claimed GOP opposition to him was “intensifying.”

Minority Whip John Cornyn (R-Texas) said that “all options were on the table” over Hagel’s nomination

Hagel experienced a rocky confirmation hearing last week, with GOP lawmakers hammering him over past statements on Israel and Iran. Several Republican senators said after the eight-hour hearing that they would vote against Hagel.

Hagel’s first test could come as early as this week, when the committee, on which Democrats hold a 14-12 advantage, votes.

McCain and Hagel sparred fiercely during last week’s hearing over the Iraq surge, which McCain backed and Hagel opposed. McCain pressed Hagel on whether the 2007 surge was the right decision or a mistake. Hagel said he would “defer to the judgment of history.”