Chuck Hagel's confirmation as secretary of defense was delayed Thursday afternoon as Senate Democrats fell one vote short of breaking an unprecedented Republican filibuster.
The final tally was 58 votes to move the nomination versus 40 against after Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., who favors Hagel, switched his vote to no in a procedural move so he can raise the matter again later. Sixty votes are needed for cloture, which means ending debate.
Four Republicans -- Sens. Mike Johanns of Nebraska, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Susan Collins of Maine and Thad Cochran of Mississippi -- voted with the 53 Democrats and their two allied independents to end debate and move to an up-or-down vote on confirmation, Talking Points Memo reported.
One senator — Orrin Hatch, R-Utah — voted present. It was the first-ever filibuster of a defense secretary nominee.
The nomination will return for another vote next week, as senators argued they haven’t had enough time to review his nomination. Other Republicans, including Sen. John McCain of Arizona, say they will switch and allow a vote then.
Ever since President Barack Obama tapped Hagel for the post, Republicans and conservatives have raised concerns about his voting record on issues concerning Israel, Iran, Iraq and the military.
Republicans have indicated that they are only postponing the nomination of the Vietnam veteran and one of their own, not completely overturn it.
Reid called the Republicans’ actions an “embarrassing display of disregard for our national security.”
“Watching Republicans with otherwise distinguished records on national security place their desire to please the tea party ahead of doing the right thing for our troops is one of the saddest spectacles I have witnessed in my 27 years in the Senate,” the majority leader said. “Senator Hagel is a decorated war veteran, an expert on national security issues and the right man to lead the Pentagon in these troubling times.”
Reid said Democrats will continue to fight for Hagel, and reconsider his nomination in the coming days.
“Some Republican senators have said that they will change their votes, and allow his nomination to proceed at some point in the future,” he added. “I will take them at their word."