Senate Republicans blocked Chuck Hagels nomination as secretary of defense in a filibuster on Thursday, demanding more time to study their former colleagues speeches and finances after he left the Senate in 2008.
It is the first time a national security nominee has ever faced a filibuster.
The 58-40 vote, with 1 present, came after Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) announced a few hours earlier that the Senate would push ahead, despite calls by several Republican senators to delay the vote until at least Feb. 25, when the Senate is scheduled to return from its Presidents Day recess.
By calling the vote, Reid set up the Senate to block President Obamas choice to lead the Pentagon, a stinging rebuke for a former colleague and member of that chamber.
Reid had called for a vote on Friday -- which Democrats and Republicans then agreed should be sped up to Thursday -- to highlight what he sees as unprecedented Republican obstruction. Democrats also say the Republican push for a delay, even a brief one, is a tactic designed to allow more time to bloody the nominee and that, in fact, the GOP will never be satisfied with the amount of information released about Hagel.
Democrats said they also pressed ahead with a vote to quickly fill the Cabinet position, as Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta steps down and heads to California. But Democrats conceded that if Hagel is blocked, they will try again after the recess.
If we dont bring it to an end today, then there will be another vote a week from Tuesday, Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.), chairman of the armed services committee, said before the vote. But, he added, the world is too dangerous to have this period of uncertainty.
Earlier Thursday, Reid announced that Republicans had secured enough votes to mount a filibuster on the confirmation.
This isnt high school getting ready for a football game or some play thats being produced at high school, Reid said during an angry floor speech Thursday morning. This is - were trying to confirm somebody to run the defense of our country, the military of our country.
But a number of Republicans who believe it is bad precedent for a defense secretary nominee to face a 60-vote threshold have said they would be willing to vote to end debate on the nomination if the White House provided further answers to several lingering questions.
If Republicans successfully filibuster the nomination Thursday, Democrats could return to the issue after next weeks recess, when a number of leading Republicans have said they will vote to close off debate, allowing the Senate to move ahead to an up-or-down vote on the nomination, requiring only 51 votes for confirmation.
I think that during the break is sufficient time to get any additional questions answered, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said Thursday. And I will vote for cloture on the day we get back, and I believe that enough of my colleagues would do the same,
Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) told reporters that cutting off debate is premature.
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