WASHINGTON — U.S. Senate Democratic leaders will have to thwart an unprecedented filibuster of Chuck Hagel’s nomination to become defense secretary.
Senate Majority Leader Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., on Wednesday afternoon filed a motion to end debate Friday after a day of efforts behind the scenes to schedule a vote.
“This is the first time in the history of the country that a presidential nominee for secretary of defense has been filibustered,” Reid said on the Senate floor. “What a shame. But that’s the way it is.”
Reid said Senate Armed Services Committee Ranking Member Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., and other Republicans set off the filibuster.
After what should be raucous floor debate on Hagel’s nomination, Democrats will need 60 votes to end debate on Friday. If five Republicans join the chamber’s 55 Democrats, the nomination will come up to a final vote.
Democratic leaders believe they can get 60 votes. The No. 3 Senate Democrat, Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York, told Defense News on Tuesday he is “optimistic” Democratic leaders can attract enough Republicans to end the filibuster attempt.
If the vote to end debate passes, the final vote would need only a majority of all senators voting “yay” to pass. Because all 55 Democrats appear to be in lockstep behind the White House, it appears a final vote would easily pass.
Inhofe told reporters Tuesday, following a contentious SASC meeting where Hagel’s confirmation was reported out on a 14-11 party line vote, that he simply has too many concerns about Hagel and his record.
Senate Republicans have been trying to delay and block Hagel’s nomination for weeks, concerned about his past and present views on dealing with a nuclear-ambitious Iran, the U.S.-Israeli alliance, the use of American military force and other issues.
Because of Senate rules, a vote to end the floor debate could occur as soon as Thursday.
Inhofe took to the Senate floor Wednesday evening to state the GOP case for the party’s tactics.
GOP lawmakers simply want more information about potential sources of foreign funds Hagel received after leaving Congress. And some prominent ones want the White House to spell out which Cabinet and military officials President Barack Obama talked to during and after the deadly Benghazi, Libya, attack.
And he disputed that Republicans are filibustering anything. Inhofe says the chamber has held past nominees to 60-vote margins, just not ones up to run the Pentagon.