Senate Republicans are delaying a vote to confirm Chuck Hagel as defense secretary, demanding first more information from the Obama administration regarding the September 11, 2012 embassy attack in Benghazi, Libya. They say they need more details about the terrorist attack before President Barack Obama's nominee can be confirmed.
Hagel had a tough time in his confirmation hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee, but he was ultimately approved Tuesday by the committee on a party line vote. He must now be confirmed by the entire body, but Republicans are blocking a vote on the nominee, although they insist that they aren't filibustering.
"There's nothing unusual about this," Sen. James M. Inhofe, a senior member of the Armed Services Committee, told the New York Times. "There's not a filibuster," he added.
Arizona Sen. John McCain had originally said he wouldn't support a filibuster of Hagel, but then joined calls that the White House must release more information on Benghazi if they wish to see the nomination move forward. After the Obama administration responded Thursday, McCain told Roll Call it "largely satisfied my concerns:"
I'm hopeful that we can work out agreement to have the vote as soon as we get back. I don't believe that we need a 60-vote margin.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid insisted that Republican delays were indeed a filibuster:
This is the first time in the history of our country that a presidential nominee for secretary of defense has been filibustered … What a shame. But that's the way it is.
He accused Republicans of attempting to hold up Hagel's confirmation over the completely unrelated matter of Benghazi:
Make no mistake: Republicans are trying to defeat Senator Hagel's nomination by filibustering while submitting extraneous requests that will never be satisfied.
The Senate is set to vote Thursday afternoon to end debate, but Democrats need 60 votes to do so and force the vote on Hagel's nomination. At this point Reid only seems to have 57 votes (all 55 members of the Democratic caucus and two Republicans). If the vote to end debate passes, only 51 votes would be needed to confirm Hagel. Right now, only two Republicans are supporting the nomination, and if Democrats are unable to overcome a filibuster, Hagel's confirmation may be delayed until after the President's Day recess.
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