Everyone here still believes President Barack Obama will have the defence secretary he wants. But on Thursday, his nominee, Chuck Hagel, nearly got turned down.
The senate, which must confirm this as all cabinet appointments, failed a vote to prevent filibuster, a legislative tool delaying an outcome through unending debates.
Republicans are opposing Hagel’s appointment because of his centrist position on many hot-button issues — too soft on Iran, not committed to Israel’s safety.
Both the White House and Senate Democrats, who control the legislative body, were confident they had enough votes to get Hagel confirmed easily.
Of the 100 seats in the senate, Democrats hold 53 and Republicans 45, the remaining two are independents who tend to caucus with Democrats, who therefore control 55 votes.
The first sign of trouble for Hagel was when the senate armed services committee voted to recommend his confirmation to the senate by a vote along party lines completely.
But senate Republicans threatened to filibuster the nomination saying they need time to study Hagel’s speeches and that they had sought more information on his financial dealings.
Senate majority leader Harry Reid moved cloture to prevent the filibuster. For the motion to carry, he needed 60 votes, as required constitutionally: 55 of his own and five Republicans.
Some Republicans had already announced their support for Hagel, which gave Reid the confidence of getting the rest of the five too. But that didn’t happen.
Republicans are now saying they will confirm Hagel, but not immediately, perhaps after the President’s Day recess, which is most of next week.