By Meghashyam Mali - 02/11/13 01:39 AM EST
Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) on Sunday threatened to filibuster former Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.)'s nomination for Defense secretary, if necessary to prevent his confirmation.
“I want a 60-vote margin and you don’t have to filibuster to get that,” said Inhofe in an interview on Fox News. “I would threaten to cause a 60-vote margin. If it took a filibuster, I’d do it that way.”
Inhofe, the ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said that requiring 60 votes to confirm nominees was common and dismissed suggestions that GOP colleagues would be reluctant to back him.
The Senate has never filibustered a Cabinet nominee.
“I don’t trust this president to make the right appointment, I don’t think that Hagel is the right appointment,” Inhofe added.
Hagel has faced tough opposition from GOP lawmakers, who have raised concerns about his views on Israel and Iran. But Inhofe is the first GOP senator to publicly back a possible filibuster to prevent his confirmation.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell last week refused to rule out a filibuster saying it was “not yet clear” what GOP leaders would do.
“I think the opposition to him is intensifying. Whether that means he will end up having to achieve 60 votes or 51 is not clear yet,” McConnell said.
An aide to Minority Whip John Cornyn (R-Texas) said earlier this month that “all options are on the table.”
Their colleague Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) has said, however, that while he is leaning toward a “no” vote on Hagel he would object to a filibuster and hopes to convince his fellow lawmakers to avoid that path.
If Republicans do not filibuster Hagel, he would likely be confirmed. No Democrats have come out against his nomination, and the party holds a 55-45 edge in the Senate.But even with a filibuster, Hagel could secure enough support. Thus far two GOP lawmakers, Sens. Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) and Mike Johanns (R-Neb.) have endorsed his nomination.
The Senate Armed Services Committee vote on Hagel, which was expected to take place last Thursday, was delayed after Republicans requested financial information about firms tied to Hagel.
Committee Chairman Carl Levin (D-Mich.), though, insisted that he would hold a vote “as soon as possible.”