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 HagelFormer Pentagon chief: Trump 'let down our country' by skipping WWI cemetery visit due to rain Trump’s bogus use of cyber threats to prop up coal GOP lambasts Trump over performance in Helsinki MORE’s (R-Neb.) nomination as Defense secretary from proceeding to a final up-or-down vote.

Four Republicans — Sens. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsDems vow swift action on gun reform next year Collins reiterates call for legislation to protect Mueller investigation GOP nerves on edge after Sinema takes lead over McSally MORE (Maine), Thad CochranWilliam (Thad) Thad CochranElection Countdown: Hyde-Smith's 'public hanging' joke shakes up Mississippi runoff | New lawsuits in Florida | Trump wants Florida election official fired | Mia Love sues to stop Utah vote count | Republican MacArthur loses NJ House race Hyde-Smith's 'public hanging' joke shakes up Mississippi runoff Election Countdown: Lawsuits fly in Florida recount fight | Nelson pushes to extend deadline | Judge says Georgia county violated Civil Rights Act | Biden, Sanders lead 2020 Dem field in poll | Bloomberg to decide on 2020 by February MORE (Miss.), Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiErnst elected to Senate GOP leadership Earmarks look to be making a comeback Trump and Pelosi set to collide as Democrats celebrate their power 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 ReidMeet the lawyer Democrats call when it's recount time Cortez Masto poised to become DSCC chair Schumer’s headaches to multiply in next Congress MORE (D-Nev.), who switched his vote from yes to preserve his ability to bring up the nomination again.

Sen. Orrin HatchOrrin Grant HatchCongress braces for high-drama lame duck Trump to award Medal of Freedom to Babe Ruth, Elvis, Scalia, Hatch How much power do states have? Supreme Court holds the answer MORE (R-Utah) voted present and Sen. David VitterDavid Bruce VitterSenate panel advances Trump nominee who wouldn't say if Brown v. Board of Education was decided correctly Planned Parenthood targets judicial nominee over abortion comments Trump nominates wife of ex-Louisiana senator to be federal judge 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 McCainCortez Masto poised to become DSCC chair Implementation matters: Making certain the VA Mission Act will work for veterans Students protesting Shapiro chant ‘John McCain’s dead’ 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 CruzO'Rourke receives invite to visit Iowa from Democratic Party in Des Moines O'Rourke and Cruz run into each other at Texas airport Texas congresswoman-elect says she would ‘love’ to see Beto run in 2020 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 GrahamSenators return to Washington intent on action against Saudis Bill to protect Mueller blocked in Senate McConnell: Mueller probe should be allowed to finish 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 AyotteElection Countdown: O'Rourke brings in massive M haul | Deal on judges lets senators return to the trail | Hurricane puts Florida candidates in the spotlight | Adelson spending big to save GOP in midterms GOP mulls having outside counsel question Kavanaugh, Ford Pallbearers, speakers announced for McCain's DC memorial service and Capitol ceremony 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 CorkerSenators return to Washington intent on action against Saudis Paul Ryan shares video of Mitt Romney dropping by in Washington Senate GOP readies for leadership reshuffle 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 AlexanderCongress needs to wake up to nuclear security threat Blackburn keeps Tennessee seat in GOP hands  Overnight Health Care — Presented by Purdue Pharma — Judge urges insurers to drop challenge over non-ObamaCare plans | Azar vows to push ahead with drug pricing proposal | No increase for ObamaCare outreach budget 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.