On Thursday, the U.S. Senate failed to pass a cloture resolution on the nomination of former Senator Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.) as secretary of defense, with 58 in favor and 40 against ending debate on the matter, with one senator voting "present." A 60-vote majority is required to end debate before the nomination can proceed to a simple majority vote, and it appears the Senate is going to come up short.
Hagel's nomination was approved by the Senate Armed Services Committee earlier this week in a 14-11 party line vote.
Although Hagel came under fire for remarks he made about Israel — specifically the "Jewish lobby" — during his confirmation hearing, Senate Republicans appear to have switched their rationale for opposing their former colleague. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) has been one of Hagel's most outspoken opponents, and this week said that regarding the nominations of Hagel for defense and John Brennan for director of national intelligence, there would be "no confirmation without information" regarding last September's deadly attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya.
The threat comes despite the fact that Hagel had nothing to do with the Benghazi attack, or was even employed by the U.S. government at the time.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) slammed his GOP counterparts earlier in the day. “This isn’t high school getting ready for a football game or some play that’s being produced at high school,” Reid said. “We’re trying to confirm somebody to run the defenses of our country, the military of our country.”
Reid also acknowledged that the Democrats do not have the necessary 60 votes at this time. There are 53 Democrats in the Senate, plus two independents who caucus with the Democrats. Today's failure to reach 60 votes doesn't mean Hagel's nomination is finished. The Senate will reportedly try again after the Presidents Day recess next week — perhaps as late as a week from Tuesday, according to Senator Carl Levin (D-Mich.) in his floor speech on the nomination.
YEAs - 58 Baldwin (D-WI)
NAYs - 40 Alexander (R-TN)
Present - 1 Hatch (R-UT)
Not Voting - 1 Vitter (R-LA)