Republicans successfully sustained a temporary filibuster of Chuck Hagel, President Obama’s nominee to head the Department of Defense, on the Senate floor Thursday evening.
The final vote was 58-40, with four Republicans — Sens. Mike Johanns (R-NE), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Susan Collins (R-ME), and Thad Cochran (R-MS) — voting with the Democrats to end debate and move to an up-or-down vote on confirmation.
One senator — Orrin Hatch (R-UT) — voted present. If he’d voted ‘yes,’ the debate on Hagel’s nomination would’ve ended and he’d be on a glide path to confirmation. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) changed his vote from yes to no, to preserve his procedural right to reconsider the issue at his discretion, likely after next week’s President’s Day recess.
By then the issue should be a formality.
Multiple GOP senators, including John McCain (R-AZ), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), and Lamar Alexander (R-TN), have all announced that they intend to switch their votes from no to yes when the issue comes before the Senate just over a week from now.
So call it a “filibluster.”
Ostensibly, a number of Republicans agreed to sustain the filibuster temporarily, to support the senators in their conference who had placed holds on the nomination pending more information from the Obama administration pertaining to an attack on a U.S. facility in Benghazi last year.
But conservative senators and outside groups strongly oppose Hagel’s confirmation, and GOP leadership is under tremendous pressure not to let the process unfold smoothly.
Brian Beutler is TPM's senior congressional reporter. Since 2009, he's led coverage of health care reform, Wall Street reform, taxes, the GOP budget, the government shutdown fight, and the debt limit fight. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.