Still Waiting on New Defense Secretary

Senate Republicans on Thursday thwarted an attempt by Senate Majority Leader Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.) to push through a confirmation vote on the nomination of former Sen. Chuck Hagel to be the next Defense Secretary, succeeding Leon Panetta. Reid and the Senate Democrats were unable to overcome a Republican filibuster, winning over only four of the five Republicans they needed to pass a cloture motion that would have ended floor debate and allowed Reid to proceed to the confirmation vote. Instead only four Republicans joined the 55 Senate Democrats in supporting cloture, meaning the measure did not pass, thereby blocking the vote. Reid said this marked the first time that there has been a filibuster over a Defense Secretary nominee. The final tally on cloture was actually 58 to 40 since Reid switched his vote from yes to no as a matter of procedure to preserve his ability to bring up the nomination again, reported The Hill. The Senate Republicans supporting the filibuster have said they want more time to consider Hagel’s nomination, citing concerns over his financial disclosures and past positions on Israel, Iran, and nuclear disarmament. Some of those voted against cloture on Feb. 14, like Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), have said they would allow a confirmation vote once the Senate reconvenes on Feb. 25 after a short recess. Meanwhile, Panetta, who had expected to transition into retirement by now, is still Defense Secretary even though Thursday was his last official day in the Pentagon. He has said he will continue to serve until Hagel is confirmed. (See also transcript from Panetta’s Feb. 13 press briefing.)