A day before he is supposed to be confirmed as defense secretary, Senate Democrats still lack the 60 votes required to break a GOP filibuster of Chuck Hagel, according to a Senate Democratic leadership aide.
In remarks on the Senate floor Thursday morning, Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) lashed out at Republicans calling their decision to filibuster Hagel “tragic.”
But nothing about his remarks, aside from the condemnatory tone, suggested that the GOP’s filibuster would succeed. And, indeed, it’s possible that over the course of the day, Democratic pressure will convince wavering Republicans to help break the filibuster. But as of Thursday morning, Hagel does not have the 60 votes to overcome the filibuster, according to the aide, who was not optimistic that the votes could be obtained, based on information Democrats have received from GOP leadership.
Democratic aides in both the House and Senate are already distributing past quotes from leading Republicans about the impropriety of filibustering presidential cabinet nominees. One, from 2005, from Mitch McConnell: ” I think the president is entitled to an up-or-down - that is simple majority - vote on nominations, both to his Cabinet and to the executive branch and also to the judiciary. The filibuster was not used for 200 years. The country did just fine.”
So far only three Republicans have publicly committed to supporting cloture - the procedural motion to end the filibuster - on the Hagel nomination. They are Sens. Mike Johanns (R-NE), Susan Collins (R-ME), and Thad Cochran (R-MS). Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) was among their number but on Wednesday began to backtrack. Other Republicans have suggested that they’d also drop their filibuster threats provided they receive more information from the administration about the terrorist attack on a U.S. facility in Benghazi, Libya last year.
The support to confirm Hagel thus exists in principle, and his confirmation is by no means doomed. But it hasn’t fully materialized in the 24 hours before the vote.
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.