Senate Republicans on Thursday voted against ending debate on the nomination of Chuck Hagel to be the nation’s next defense secretary.
Hagel is a former Republican Senator and a Vietnam War veteran, but his nomination has been opposed by conservatives and pro-Israel forces. The Senate voted 58 to 40 to end debate, two votes short of the 60 that were needed.
Senators Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker, both Tennessee Republicans, voted against ending the debate.
“Chuck Hagel is a patriot, but by virtue of his views and his experience, he is not the right person to lead the world’s largest military organization in these dangerous times,” Alexander said in a Thursday press release, explaining his intention to vote against Hagel’s confirmation.
Alexander said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Nevada Democrat, tried to end the debate too quickly.
“The majority leader’s motion to cut off debate only two days after an important nomination is reported to the Senate floor is premature, as several senators have asked the nominee questions that deserve more consideration,” Alexander said.
Corker said he generally believes a nominee to the president’s cabinet deserves an up-or-down vote in the Senate.
“But in this case, I believe a number of my colleagues have raised legitimate concerns about information that hasn’t yet been made public and that extending the debate gives more time for these concerns to be addressed,” Corker said. “Once sufficient time has passed, I am perfectly open to a 51-vote threshold.”
Alexander said he also believes cabinet nominees deserve an up-or-down vote.
“When the Senate returns on Feb. 26, there should have been sufficient time to consider Sen. Hagel’s record, so I will vote to end debate,” Alexander said.
The New York Times reported that it was the first time in history that the Senate has required that a nominee for secretary of defense clear the 60-vote hurdle before a final, simple majority vote.