Hagel confirmation hits stumbling block
Harry Reid came up a couple of votes short in his bid to force Chuck Hagel's nomination to be Secretary of Defense to the floor of the Senate. The 58 votes to shut down the filibuster came up two short of the necessary 60 to move the nomination.
Now what? The Republicans say they are willing to give the president an up or down vote later in the month - at which point he will almost certainly be confirmed. But they want some additional answers from Hagel on his finances.
Another Hagel vote is scheduled for Feb. 26, when the Senate returns from a 10-day break. That vote is also likely to require 60 votes to move to confirmation.
But senior Republicans said that their Thursday blockade probably will be over by then and that they will allow confirmation at some point.
Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) - who has gone several days without saying anything publicly about Hagel - has deputized Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) as the weather vane by which to judge when Republicans should yield on the filibuster.
That has, at times, made it difficult to discern the party's position.
On Monday, when some GOP strategists were pondering a walkout of the Armed Services Committee's consideration of Hagel, McCain issued a statement declaring that the nominee "has fulfilled the rigorous requirements that the committee demands" and that he deserves a committee vote.
During Tuesday's committee hearings, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) demanded more information on Hagel's speeches, suggesting that the nominee could have received money from nefarious sources such as North Korea. That prompted McCain to lecture Cruz that "no one on this committee at any time should impugn his character or his integrity."
There's not much chance that Hagel can be blocked. McCain and probably Lindsey Graham will join the Democrats on the next vote, thus giving Harry Reid his 60 senators. But it is certainly an embarrassment for Obama and it serves Hagel right for the inept and incomptent confirmation hearing he went through in the Armed Services Committee.