Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., filed Wednesday for cloture on the nomination of Chuck Hagel as secretary of defense, saying it was the first time in history that such a nomination faced a filibuster.
"What a shame," Reid said on the Senate floor, according to Talking Points Memo. "But that's the way it is."
Reid announced on the floor that he was unable to reach an agreement with the top Republican on the Armed Services Committee, Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., to move to a vote immediately, the Los Angeles Times reported. Reid filed a motion to end the filibuster and said he expected to vote on it Friday.
Meanwhile Wednesday, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., who chairs the Intelligence Committee, said she had postponed a vote expected as soon as Thursday on the nomination of John Brennan for CIA director, the LA Times reported.
Members of the committee had objected, Feinstein said without naming them. She said she hoped to schedule a vote after a recess that ends Feb. 25.
Feinstein said committee rules allowed any member to delay a nomination vote. She also suggested that Brennan needed to satisfy requests for more information about September's deadly terrorist attack on the U.S. mission in Benghazi, Libya, and about secret memos on targeted drone killings.
A Republican senator once considered a possible vote for Hagel said Wednesday she will oppose his nomination, while other GOP senators demanded the White House provide more information on the Benghazi attack.
Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, said Hagel's views on the most critical threats facing nation are "unsettling." Collins said Hagel was unwilling to ask the European Union to designate Hezbollah a terrorist organization in 2006, and he has been hesitant to back the use of all nonmilitary options, such as unilateral sanctions, to pressure Iran into ceasing its nuclear program, the Huffington Post reported.
But Collins, who serves on the Intelligence Committee, said she would not join in a filibuster to block a final vote.
"As a general rule, I believe a president has the right to choose the members of his Cabinet, and only in extraordinary circumstances should such a nomination be filibustered," she said. "I oppose Senator Hagel’s nomination, but I cannot join in a filibuster to block each senator’s right to vote for or against him."
If Hagel passes the cloture vote, the Senate could debate for up to 30 hours before a final vote on his nomination.
No Cabinet choice has ever been successfully filibustered, but Inhofe asserted that it's not unusual to hold a nominee to a 60-vote threshold. "It's not a filibuster," he said. "This has happened, and it's happening again right now."
A bitterly divided Armed Services Committee on Tuesday voted to approve Hagel by a strict party-line 14-11 vote.
Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said Wednesday that he would vote against ending debate on Hagel because he wants more information on President Barack Obama's actions on the night of the Sept. 11 raid on the mission in Benghazi. Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans were killed.
Graham, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., wrote to Obama on Tuesday and asked whether he spoke to any Libyan government official during the assault.
"There seems to not be much interest to hold this president accountable for a national security breakdown that led to the first ambassador being killed in the line of duty in over 30 years," Graham said. "No, the debate on Chuck Hagel is not over. It has not been serious. We don't have the information we need. And I'm going to fight the idea of jamming somebody through until we get answers about what the president did personally when it came to the Benghazi debacle."
McCain, who said earlier he opposed a filibuster, declined to say Wednesday whether he would try to delay confirmation if Obama did not provide an answer. "My position right now is I want an answer to the question," he said.
Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., the chairman of the Armed Services Committee, said he's confident the White House will supply the information and that Hagel will be confirmed.
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