Senate GOP blocks Hagel vote for now

Published on NewsOK Modified: February 14, 2013 at 6:03 pm •  Published: February 14, 2013
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The White House responded to questions about Benghazi by saying former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called Libyan President Mohamed Magariaf on Obama's behalf on Sept. 11, the day of the attack, to coordinate additional support to protect Americans in Libya. White House counsel Kathryn Ruemmler said Obama spoke to Magariaf on the evening of Sept. 12.

The Obama administration also had disclosed the calls at the time they were made.

Reid said it was "shocking" and "tragic" that the GOP would attempt to block Hagel's nomination at a time when the U.S. military is engaged in so many places around the world. "Not a single nominee for secretary of defense ever in the history of our country has been filibustered," he said in a speech on the Senate floor.

In the nation's history of hundreds of Cabinet nominees, the Senate has only rejected nine nominees and 21 were withdrawn or no action was taken, according to Senate historian Donald Ritchie. On just two occasions has the Senate imposed a 60-vote threshold for a Cabinet nominee. Neither was the president's pick for defense secretary.

A full Senate vote on Hagel had been expected Friday after Reid filed a motion to limit debate. While Democrats hold a 55-45 edge in the Senate and have the numbers to confirm Hagel on a majority vote, they needed the support of five Republicans to clear the way for a majority vote. In the end, they only got four.

Graham had said Wednesday he would vote against ending debate on Hagel's nomination.

"There seems to not be much interest to hold this president accountable for a national security breakdown that led to the first ambassador being killed in the line of duty in over 30 years," Graham said. "No, the debate on Chuck Hagel is not over. It has not been serious. We don't have the information we need. And I'm going to fight the idea of jamming somebody through until we get answers about what the president did personally when it came to the Benghazi debacle."

The Senate Intelligence Committee is pushing off a vote on Brennan amid demands that the White House turn over more details about drone strikes against terror suspects and about the Benghazi attacks. Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein of California said a vote likely will be postponed until late February.

The Armed Services Committee on Tuesday voted to approve Hagel by a 14-11 vote, with all the panel's Democrats backing him. The committee's Republicans were unified in opposition to their onetime colleague.

If ultimately confirmed by the Senate, Hagel, 66, would take charge of the U.S. armed forces at a time of turmoil. Automatic cuts to the Pentagon's budget are looming, American troops in Afghanistan are being halved over the next year, North Korea has tested a nuclear weapon, Iran remains a threat in the Persian Gulf region, and Syria, Iraq, Libya, Egypt, Mali and Tunisia all are in a state of unrest.

At a Pentagon award ceremony on Thursday for Clinton, Panetta said it was fitting to recognize her accomplishments as secretary of state on Valentine's Day. And he said the second-best Valentine's Day present would be for the Senate to confirm Hagel and allow Panetta and his wife to "get the hell out of town." He said he's got his belongings packed.

Republicans accused Democrats of setting up a test vote Thursday that they knew would fail so the president's allies could paint Republicans as obstructionists during the Presidents Day break.

"We could have worked this out," said Republican Sen. John Cornyn of Texas.

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Associated Press writers Alan Fram, Donna Cassata and Jim Kuhnhenn contributed to this report.