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Senate Republicans block Hagel nomination for Defense secretary

Senate Republicans block Hagel nomination for Defense secretary

Senate Republicans in a 58-40 vote Thursday blocked former Sen. Chuck HagelCharles (Chuck) Timothy HagelShould Mike Pompeo be confirmed? Intel chief: Federal debt poses 'dire threat' to national security Hagel: Trump is 'an embarrassment' MORE’s (R-Neb.) nomination as Defense secretary from proceeding to a final up-or-down vote.

Four Republicans — Sens. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsOvernight Energy: Trump NASA pick advances after drama | White House office to investigate Pruitt's soundproof booth | 170 lawmakers call for Pruitt to resign Trump's NASA nominee advances after floor drama Family, friends mourn death of Barbara Bush MORE (Maine), Thad CochranWilliam (Thad) Thad CochranChamber of Commerce makes play in Mississippi Senate race for Hyde-Smith Shelby approved as Appropriations panel chairman Cindy Hyde-Smith sworn in as Mississippi's latest senator MORE (Miss.), Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiSenators press administration on mental health parity Overnight Energy: Watchdogs unveil findings on EPA, Interior controversies | GAO says EPA violated law with soundproof booth | IG says Zinke could have avoided charter flight | GOP chair probes Pruitt's four email addresses GOP fractures over push to protect Russia probe MORE (Alaska) and Mike JohannsMichael (Mike) Owen JohannsMeet the Democratic sleeper candidate gunning for Senate in Nebraska Farmers, tax incentives can ease the pain of a smaller farm bill Lobbying World MORE (Neb.)—  joined 55 Democrats and Independents in supporting the nomination. Sixty votes were needed to cut off debate, leaving Democrats one vote short.

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The final 58-40 tally reflected a no vote from Senate Majority Leader Harry ReidHarry Mason ReidDems walk tightrope on Pompeo nomination The Memo: Teens rankle the right with gun activism Dems to party: Go on offense with Trump’s alleged affairs MORE (D-Nev.), who switched his vote from yes to preserve his ability to bring up the nomination again.

Sen. Orrin HatchOrrin Grant HatchSenate Finance leaders call on Commerce to improve the tariff-exclusion process GOP senators raise concerns about babies on Senate floor House passes series of bills to improve IRS MORE (R-Utah) voted present and Sen. David VitterDavid Bruce VitterPlanned Parenthood targets judicial nominee over abortion comments Trump nominates wife of ex-Louisiana senator to be federal judge Where is due process in all the sexual harassment allegations? MORE (R-La.) missed the vote.

Republicans said it was too early to clear Hagel’s nomination, but that they would consider allowing an up-or-down vote after the Senate returns to business on Feb. 25.

They blamed Democrats for rushing the vote and the White House for not providing additional information about Hagel’s compensation for paid speeches.

Reid scolded Republicans for holding up Hagel, saying it was the first filibuster of a Defense nominee in history.

Hagel seems likely to win confirmation eventually, but the delay highlighted the contentiousness of his nomination.

“I think it’s appropriate to wait until we come back,” said Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainThe Hill's Morning Report: Inside the Comey memos Democrats mull audacious play to block Pompeo Overnight Defense: Trump steps up fight with California over guard deployment | Heitkamp is first Dem to back Pompeo for State | Dems question legality of Syria strikes MORE (R-Ariz.). “I think there’s plenty of time to have any further questions answered and I intend to vote for cloture then. … He’d certainly get mine and a number of others.”

Collins said after the vote she did not try to lobby her Republican colleagues to vote for cloture, but she did not want to filibuster his nomination because she believes the president should have deference in picking his Cabinet. Collins plans to vote against Hagel for Defense secretary.

Reid and the White House blasted Republicans for holding up the nomination, accusing them of playing politics at a time when a Defense secretary is sorely needed.

The current secretary, Leon Panetta, is headed back home for California on Thursday, though he will remain on as Pentagon chief until a new one is in place.

“These delaying tactics are unconscionable, and they should end right away,” White House deputy press secretary Josh Earnest told reporters aboard Air Force One Thursday.

A White House official said that the delay would not stop Hagel’s confirmation.

“Senator Hagel is going to be confirmed, if not tomorrow then when the Senate returns from recess,” the aide told reporters.

President Obama, while participating in a Google Plus hangout, said the vote was “unfortunate.” He noted that Hagel had been consistently praised by Republicans as a senator and was “imminently qualified” to be Defense secretary.

Democrats were seeking to finish Hagel’s confirmation this week after he cleared the Senate Armed Services Committee Tuesday.

Republicans have demanded more information about speeches the nominee gave and his compensation for them. Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzCruz's Dem challenger slams Time piece praising Trump Race for Republican Speaker rare chance to unify party for election 32 male senators back Senate women's calls to change harassment rules MORE (R-Texas) at a hearing this week suggested the speeches were given to extreme or radical groups, a statement some Democrats have criticized.

Other Republicans, including McCain and Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamRepublicans divided over legislation protecting Mueller Rand Paul under pressure as Pompeo hunts for votes Dems walk tightrope on Pompeo nomination MORE (R-S.C.), had threatened to block Hagel because the White House wasn’t giving them the information they were looking for about the terrorist attack last year on a U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya.

Democrats had hoped that a White House letter sent to Graham, McCain and Sen. Kelly AyotteKelly Ann AyotteAudit finds US Defense Department wasted hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars US sends A-10 squadron to Afghanistan for first time in three years No, the US did not spend million on a gas station in Afghanistan MORE (R-N.H.) on Wednesday might convince them to vote for cloture, but the senators stuck with their party.

“There’s a good many of us who believe tomorrow is ridiculous because he just came out of committee two days ago,” Graham told reporters. “But when we come back, I’d feel very comfortable, unless something really stunning comes out, to go to vote.”

Graham also blamed Democrats for forcing the vote on Hagel this week, saying they had delayed votes in the past on Bush administration appointees.

“Lousy of them — what a double standard,” Graham said. “I’m highly confident if the Democrats were in our shoes and you had a controversial nominee like this with outstanding information, that they would do at least what we’ve done, probably more.”

Sen. Bob CorkerRobert (Bob) Phillips CorkerDemocrats mull audacious play to block Pompeo Judge blocks Trump administration from transferring unnamed enemy combatant Rand Paul under pressure as Pompeo hunts for votes MORE (R-Tenn.) suggested that a cloture vote might not even be necessary after the recess, if no Republicans objected going straight to a final up-or-down confirmation vote.

He also felt that the White House would provide the “legitimate information” that GOP senators have been asking for.

“I think the legitimate information that’s been asked for will come,” Corker said. “Some people may have asked for things that are over the top — I don’t know that, by the way — but I think the legitimate requests will be answered.”

After a party lunch Thursday, GOP senators were nearly united in saying that the Senate was moving too quickly to confirm a controversial nominee.

“The bottom line is it’s premature for Sen. Reid to cut off debate today,” said Sen. Lamar AlexanderAndrew (Lamar) Lamar AlexanderMaternal deaths keep rising in US, raising scrutiny Supreme Court weighs future of online sales taxes Senators press administration on mental health parity MORE (R-Tenn.). “I have a little personal experience with this — I was nominated and it took 87 days between the time I was nominated and the time I was confirmed.”

Republicans have bristled at the notion they are filibustering Hagel’s nomination, and say he will almost surely be confirmed after the recess.

But Democrats say that Republicans are in fact taking the unprecedented step of filibustering a Defense secretary nominee.

“It is shocking that our Republicans colleagues would leave our nation without a secretary of Defense with all the things going on and when we’re in a war,” Reid said Thursday.

The White House had hoped Hagel would be in place after this week to attend a NATO meeting of defense ministers in Brussels next week. Now Panetta may take one more trip abroad before he retires back to California.

"We'll cross that bridge if we come to it," a senior defense official told The Hill.

This story was posted at 4:59 p.m. and updated at 5:51 p.m.