Republicans block Obama's defence nominee
By Arun Kumar, Washington, Feb 15 : In a major rebuff to President Barack Obama, the Senate Republicans stalled the confirmation process of his Defence Secretary nominee Chuck Hagel, a former Republican senator, with a filibuster.
Obama's Democrats Thursday failed to stop the rare filibuster against a cabinet nominee as they fell two short of the 60 votes needed to move forward with the nomination despite the backing of four Republicans.
Fifty-eight voted to go ahead with the confirmation vote, while 40 voted to hold it up. One Republican senator, Orrin Hatch, announced present, while another senator David Vitter missed the vote.
In a bid to stall Hagel, who has run into strong opposition from the pro-Israel lobby, Republicans have raised questions about his finances, as well as White House's role during the terror attack on a US mission in Benghazi, Libya that had become a major issue during the November presidential election.
Republicans, however, signalled they're willing to allow the nomination to proceed after its week-long recess, when only a simple majority of 51 votes are required to stop a filibuster.
Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin's office announced the Senate will take up another vote to move forward on Hagel on Feb 26.
"I regret that Republican senators, except the valiant four, chose to filibuster the nomination," Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said on the Senate floor.
"Republicans have made an unfortunate choice to ratchet up the level of destruction here in Washington. Just when you thought things couldn't get worse, it gets worse."
The White House sent a letter to Capitol Hill Thursday stating that the then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called Libyan President Mohammed Magariaf the same night as the attack.
President Obama, according to the letter, did not speak to the Libyan president until the evening of the day following the violence.
To get the Hagel nomination rolling , Vice President Joe Biden also made calls Thursday to Republican senators, according to a senior Democratic source cited by CNN.
Outgoing Defence Secretary Leon Panetta has said he will remain in his position until a defence nominee is "sworn into office" .
Meanwhile, some questioned whether Hagel would withdraw his nomination. But one senior administration official cited by CNN said that idea is "insane."
(Arun Kumar can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)