Former Nebraska Sen. Chuck Hagel (Saul Loeb / AFP via Getty Images)
WASHINGTON — The U.S. Senate voted Tuesday to end a Republican filibuster of the Obama administration’s nomination of former Nebraska GOP Sen. Chuck Hagel to become defense secretary.
The cloture vote of 71-27, which garnered enough Republican support to exceed 60 required votes, clears the way for an up-or-down vote on the nomination scheduled for 4:30 p.m. Washington time Tuesday.
The vote of came after Democrats failed on Feb. 14 to attract the five GOP votes they needed to halt debate. Republican senators wanted to use last week’s recess to continue reviewing Hagel’s controversial record, which turned up nothing that led them to again prevent the nomination from being allowed a 51-vote threshold on the Senate floor.
During two hours of debate on the chamber floor prior to the cloture vote, Democrats such as Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., defended Hagel’s record. Levin dubbed the Vietnam War veteran a “patriot.”
But Republicans continued to hammer the nominee. Armed Services Committee Ranking Member Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., repeated his call that the administration nominate another individual to replace the outgoing Leon Panetta.