Former Nebraska United States Sen. Chuck Hagel’s path to Secretary of Defense has been blocked, for now.
The Senate in Washington fell two votes short of the total needed to cut off debate and proceed to a vote on Hagel’s confirmation. The Senate voted 58-to-40 on a cloture motion, or a motion to end debate on the nominee and force a vote. Sixty votes were needed.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nevada) took to the Senate floor after the vote and criticized Republicans for holding up Hagel’s nomination.
“Republicans have made an unfortunate choice to ratchet up the level of obstruction here in Washington,” Reid stated. “Just when you thought things couldn’t get worse, it gets worse.”
Most Capitol observers anticipated the vote. Many questions have been raised about Hagel and opponents have seized upon his missteps during confirmation hearings before the Senate Armed Services Committee to bolster their case against the nominee. In addition, some senators have attempted to use the Hagel nomination as leverage to get concessions from the Obama Administration on unrelated issues, such as the September 11th attacks in Benghazi.
Reid decried the methods being used and stated Hagel deserved a confirmation vote.
“He served with distinction in the United States Senate as a Senator, served on the Foreign Relations Committee, Armed Services Committee, Intelligence Committee,” Reid stated. “He’s a man of quality and of courage.”
Reid said he will apologize to the former Nebraska Senator as well as President Obama.
“I’m sorry for the president. I’m sorry for the country and I’m sorry for you, but we’re not going to give up on you,” Reid stated.
Reid has scheduled a vote for when the Senate returns to Washington from its break.
Reid’s criticism prompted a response from the Minority Whip, Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) who stated that questions need to be answered before a vote is taken on Hagel.
“The Majority Leader knows full well that the reason why cloture was denied or closing off debate was denied is because there are reasonable requests being made on this side for additional information,” Cornyn said.
Cornyn denied Republicans are playing politics in blocking a vote on the former Republican senator.
“There are solid public policy differences between members of this side of the aisle and the nominee,” according to Cronyn. “This is not about politics. This is not about personalities.”
AUDIO: Senate leader Harry Reid (D-Nevada) and Minority Whip John Cornyn (R-Texas) talk on Senate floor after vote. [12 min.]