WASHINGTON - Republicans on Thursday delayed Defense secretary nominee Chuck Hagel's confirmation for at least one week citing concerns that senators have not had enough time to review his nomination. Leading GOP senators pledged to allow a vote when the chamber returns after the President's Day recess, suggesting the nomination is on pause but not in peril.
Republicans blocked Democrats from achieving the 60 vote threshold required to end debate, 58-40, and move to a final vote on the nomination. For the final confirmation vote, a simple 51-vote majority will be enough.
"I will vote in favor of cloture on the day we get back," said Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., who defended senators' right to have more time to review a nomination that has sharply divided the two parties. McCain has said he not support Hagel's nomination, but he will not block it from a final vote.
Filibusters of cabinet nominations are rare, but Republicans have raised repeated questions about Hagel's record, management skills and even his temperament for the job. Thursday's vote was the first time a defense secretary nomination had been filibustered, although Republicans countered they are not seeking to derail the nomination, just postpone it.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and other Democrats have accused Republicans of playing politics with the nomination in an effort to embarrass the administration and cause unnecessary delays in a nomination that appeared on track for confirmation.
A White House official who is not authorized to speak about the nomination publicly said, "I think we all need to take a deep breath. Senator Hagel is going to be confirmed, if not tomorrow then when the Senate returns from recess."