Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell confirmed that a filibuster of former Senator Chuck Hagel was possible, and now it appears that it’s bordering on probable. A top GOP aide has confirmed to the National Review that Hagel’s resistance to providing a number of documents may be the straw that broke the camel’s back on his confirmation as Secretary of Defense:
If and when the committee approves Hagel’s nomination, the full Senate could vote as early as Thursday. The question then becomes whether or not Republicans will, by filibustering, require a 60-vote threshold for confirmation. Senators Jim Inhofe (R., Okla.) and Lindsey Graham (R., S.C.) have openly threatened to do so, and several others have hinted at the possibility.
Democrats would need at least five Republican votes to end a filibuster, a goal that has started to appear increasingly difficult to achieve. “Last week, I was pretty confident that, despite [Hagel’s] horrible showing at the confirmation hearing, he would still probably get to 60 votes,” a GOP Senate aide told National Review Online. “But I think his hiding the ball on [disclosing past associations] is going to hurt his ability get those five Republican votes.”
Hagel supporters have charged that filibustering a cabinet nominee would be unprecedented, but that simply is not true. In 2006, for example, Democrats filibustered the nomination of Dirk Kempthorne, President George W. Bush’s choice for secretary of the interior.
Today’s vote is just the Armed Services Committee, controlled by Democrats, and Hagel will undoubtedly get the recommendation of that committee. Still, we should get a good sense of just how strong Republican opposition is, as some members are proposing a walk-out during the vote. I actually agree with Senator John McCain, who believes a walk-out would be inappropriate and disrespectful. We don’t need to make a scene, we just need to take a stand on the full Senate floor and filibuster Hagel.