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Reid challenges GOP to filibuster Hagel

Reid challenges GOP to filibuster Hagel

Senate Majority Leader Harry ReidHarry Mason ReidDemocratic Senate emerges as possible hurdle for progressives  Harry Reid: Biden should give GOP three weeks to see if they will work with him Democrats to boycott committee vote on Amy Coney Barrett's Supreme Court nomination MORE (D-Nev.) challenged Republican senators Wednesday to launch a filibuster against President Obama’s nominee to lead the Pentagon, former Sen. Chuck HagelCharles (Chuck) Timothy HagelArmy taps University of Wisconsin to lead research into hybrid vehicles, aircraft While our foes deploy hypersonic weapons, Washington debates about funding Hillicon Valley: Democrats request counterintelligence briefing | New pressure for election funding | Republicans urge retaliation against Chinese hackers 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 CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzGOP clears key hurdle on Barrett's Supreme Court nomination, setting up Monday confirmation Texas and North Carolina: Democrats on the verge? Senate GOP to drop documentary series days before election hitting China, Democrats over coronavirus 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 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.) and Thad CochranWilliam (Thad) Thad CochranObama endorses Espy in Mississippi Senate race Espy wins Mississippi Senate Democratic primary Bottom Line 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 Frederick WickerBipartisan group of senators call on Trump to sanction Russia over Navalny poisoning Senate Republicans offer constitutional amendment to block Supreme Court packing Government efforts to 'fix' social media bias overlooks the destruction of our discourse MORE (R-Miss.). 

Sen. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsSenate Democrats hold talkathon to protest Barrett's Supreme Court nomination Trump autographs pumpkin at Maine campaign event: 'It'll be on eBay tonight' Trump makes rare campaign stops in New England in closing stretch 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 Grant HatchMellman: What happened after Ginsburg? Bottom line Bottom line 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 AlexanderAndrew (Lamar) Lamar AlexanderSenate Health Committee chair asks Cuomo, Newsom to 'stop second guessing' FDA on vaccine efficacy The Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by Goldman Sachs - Two weeks out, Trump attempts to rally the base McConnell aims for unity amid growing divisions with Trump 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 Sidney McCainMark Kelly releases Spanish ad featuring Rep. Gallego More than 300 military family members endorse Biden Jennifer Lawrence says until Trump she was 'a little Republican' 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 Olin GrahamGraham dismisses criticism from Fox Business's Lou Dobbs Texas and North Carolina: Democrats on the verge? Trump expressed doubt to donors GOP can hold Senate: report MORE (R-S.C.) and Kelly AyotteKelly Ann AyotteThe Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by Facebook - Senate makes SCOTUS nominee Barrett a proxy for divisive 2020 Senate Republicans scramble to put Trump at arm's length GOP anxiety grows over Trump political roller coaster 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 Milton LevinMichigan to pay 0M to victims of Flint water crisis Unintended consequences of killing the filibuster Inspector general independence must be a bipartisan priority in 2020 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 CornynDallas Morning News poll shows Biden leading Trump in Texas Biden's oil stance jars Democrats in tough races The Hill's Campaign Report: 2020 spending wars | Biden looks to clean up oil comments | Debate ratings are in 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 NelsonClarence (Bill) William NelsonSenate Democrats want to avoid Kavanaugh 2.0 Democrats sound alarm on possible election chaos Trump, facing trouble in Florida, goes all in 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.