Reid challenges GOP to filibuster Hagel

Reid challenges GOP to filibuster Hagel

Senate Majority Leader Harry ReidHarry ReidDems see surge of new candidates Dems to grind Senate to a halt over ObamaCare repeal fight GOP fires opening attack on Dem reportedly running for Heller's Senate seat MORE (D-Nev.) challenged Republican senators Wednesday to launch a filibuster against President Obama’s nominee to lead the Pentagon, former Sen. Chuck HagelChuck HagelLobbying World The US just attacked Syria. So where's Congress? Senators tear into Marines on nude photo scandal MORE (R-Neb.).

Reid scolded Republicans for making the threat, and set up a vote to end debate on Hagel for Friday. 

“This is first time in the history of our country that a presidential nominee for secretary of Defense has been filibustered,” Reid said on the Senate floor. “What a shame.” 

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Republicans said they want to delay an up-or-down vote on Hagel in order to get information on who has compensated him for paid speeches. They also want to see some of Hagel’s speeches, which GOP Sen. Ted CruzTed CruzWill Republicans stand up to the NRA's insurrection rhetoric? Rocky rollout for Senate healthcare bill Overnight Healthcare: Latest on Senate healthcare bill | Four conservatives say they'll oppose | Obama slams bill | Health groups offer scathing criticism MORE (Texas) at a panel hearing on Tuesday said may have been given to “extreme or radical groups.” 

A few senators are also using Hagel’s nomination to demand answers from the White House about last year’s Benghazi, Libya, attack. 

It is unclear whether Republicans can maintain a filibuster against Hagel, who appears to have support from the 55 senators caucusing with Democrats. 

Republican senators said they were confident they had 41 votes to block a vote on Hagel’s nomination this week, even though two Republicans, Sens. Mike JohannsMike JohannsLobbying World To buy a Swiss company, ChemChina must pass through Washington Republican senator vows to block nominees over ObamaCare co-ops MORE (Neb.) and Thad CochranThad CochranDefense hawks gird for budget brawl Congressional politics hurts cotton farmers GOP senators dismiss Trump filibuster change MORE (Miss.), are on record as supporting Hagel. Several other GOP senators have said they are opposed to filibustering a Cabinet nominee. 

“I think there are enough of us that believe there’s more information to receive from the administration, and I think there’s more benefit to waiting 10 days than there is to proceeding on in a hurried manner,” said Sen. Roger WickerRoger WickerOvernight Defense: GOP chairman moves ahead with 0B defense bill | Lawmakers eye 355 ship navy | Senate panel seeks answers on shoot down of Syrian jet Lawmakers unveil bill to set 355-ship Navy Overnight Tech: Uber CEO resigns | Trump's Iowa tech trip | Dems push Sessions to block AT&T-Time Warner deal | Lawmakers warned on threat to election systems | MORE (R-Miss.). 

Sen. Susan CollinsSusan CollinsRocky rollout for Senate healthcare bill Overnight Healthcare: Latest on Senate healthcare bill | Four conservatives say they'll oppose | Obama slams bill | Health groups offer scathing criticism The Hill's Whip List: Senate ObamaCare repeal bill MORE (R-Maine), however, said Wednesday that while she would vote against Hagel’s nomination, she would vote with the Democrats for cloture. 

Whether Republicans will be able to successfully block Hagel’s confirmation this week is likely to be determined by senior Republicans who are concerned about the precedent such a move would set. 

“If we can’t get reasonable requests fulfilled, it looks like I would vote against cloture,” said Sen. Orrin HatchOrrin HatchLive coverage: Senate GOP unveils its ObamaCare repeal bill Grassley doesn't see how Judiciary 'can avoid' obstruction probe Ryan calls for tax reform to be permanent MORE (Utah), who previously had expressed opposition to a filibuster of Hagel. “Not because it’s a filibuster, but because we’re not getting cooperation. And I think we’ve got to have cooperation in these kinds of situations.” 

Sen. Lamar AlexanderLamar AlexanderThe Hill's Whip List: Senate ObamaCare repeal bill Trump administration pays June ObamaCare subsidies to insurers Republicans and the lost promise of local control in education MORE (R-Tenn.) has also said he opposes a filibuster of Hagel, but told reporters Wednesday he was open to voting against cloture this week. 

“I’ve said many times I won’t use a filibuster to deny a Cabinet member a seat, but I think we ought to take the time to give senators who have reasonable questions a chance to have those questions considered, and I don’t think we’re at that point yet,” Alexander said. 

Another senator to watch is Sen. John McCainJohn McCainCoats: Trump seemed obsessed with Russia probe The Hill's Whip List: Senate ObamaCare repeal bill Meghan McCain slams 'felon' Dinesh D'Souza over tweets mocking father's captivity MORE (R-Ariz.), who has previously said that he was opposed to filibustering Hagel because it would set a “bad precedent.” 

McCain said Wednesday that he would consider blocking a vote on Hagel unless the White House answered questions that he and Sens. Lindsey GrahamLindsey GrahamThe Hill's Whip List: Senate ObamaCare repeal bill Judiciary Committee to continue Russia probe after Mueller meeting Why does Paul Ryan want to punish American consumers? MORE (R-S.C.) and Kelly AyotteKelly AyotteOPINION: Democracy will send ISIS to the same grave as communism Kelly Ayotte joins defense contractor's board of directors Week ahead: Comey firing dominates Washington MORE (R-N.H.) posed on Obama’s role responding to the Benghazi attack. 

Graham has also threatened to block Hagel’s nomination over the outstanding questions. 

“I will decide that [based on] whether I get the answer,” McCain told reporters Wednesday. Asked what he would do if he does not get a response, McCain said: “I’m not answering any ifs today.” 

Democrats said they think they can win 60 votes. 

“I’m optimistic there will be 60,” said Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl LevinCarl LevinTrump's crush on foreign autocrats threatens democracy at home OPINION: Congress must press forward with its Russia investigation Democrats and Republicans share blame in rewriting the role of the Senate MORE (D-Mich.), who rejected GOP requests to delay Tuesday’s committee vote over the requests for more financial documents. 

Given Johanns and Cochran’s support for Hagel, and Collins’s opposition to a filibuster, one official close to Hagel said it was hard to see how a filibuster could be maintained. 

“It’s almost inconceivable to think there aren’t two more Republicans who don’t believe the Senate should take the unprecedented step of filibustering a Defense secretary nominee,” the official said. “It’s a numbers game.” 

Senate Minority Whip John CornynJohn CornynLawmakers want meeting with Trump administration to take US-Mexico border trade Rocky rollout for Senate healthcare bill The Hill's Whip List: Senate ObamaCare repeal bill MORE (R-Texas), who was one of the earliest opponents of Hagel’s nomination, hedged his bets Wednesday over whether Republicans had the votes to block Hagel this week. 

“I’m not going to speculate about that move, but we’ll see,” Cornyn told The Hill. 

Republicans took pains on Wednesday to argue holding up Hagel for more information wasn’t really a filibuster because they would eventually allow his nomination to be considered in an up-or-down vote. 

Cornyn said Republicans weren’t filibustering because they were not trying to block the nomination, only to delay it because “there’s still a desire to get responses to the legitimate questions that have been asked.” 

“When you deny cloture, that doesn’t mean that the nomination is doomed. It just means the debate will continue and there will be more time given to negotiate,” Cornyn told The Hill. 

Levin, however, argued that any move to force a cloture vote would be a filibuster, which has never occurred for a Defense secretary nominee. 

“If they require a cloture vote, that’s either a filibuster or the threat of a filibuster,” Levin said. 

The filibuster fight is just the latest chapter in Hagel’s contentious nomination. 

The Armed Services Committee held a raucous session on Tuesday before approving Hagel on a 14-11 party-line vote, in which Sen. Bill NelsonBill NelsonSenate panel unveils aviation bill with consumer protections, drone fix Driverless cars speed onto political agenda Biden leaves options on table for another White House bid MORE (D-Fla.) accused Cruz of “going over the line” with accusations about alleged connections that Hagel had with foreign governments. 

Levin said Tuesday that Republicans were holding Hagel to a different standard than all previous Defense secretary nominees. 

“We’re not going to single out one nominee for this kind of disparate treatment,” Levin said.


Published at 4:30 p.m. and updated at 8:28 p.m.