An unnamed senior Obama administration official told the National Journal that the White House is “very confident” the Senate will confirm Chuck Hagel to be the next Secretary of Defense.
According to the report, the administration’s whip count currently stands at 57 votes in favor of confirmation, with a few others opposed to the 60-vote threshold. The official said that the total tally in favor of Hagel could be as high as 72 votes.
Hagel’s neocon detractors see the filibuster as the last option in their anti-Hagel arsenal (which began by trying to smear the former GOP senator from Nebraska as an “anti-Semite”). Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO), who sits on the Armed Services Committee, threw cold water on that idea last week. Senate Minority Mitch McConnell (R-KY) briefly revived the idea on Monday when he wouldn’t rule it out during a local radio interview.
But Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), who appears unlikely to vote in favor of Hagel’s confirmation, said later on Monday that he would not support a filibuster. And with the 55-seat Democratic majority, two Republican senators saying they supported Hagel’s nomination, and two others saying they’d also oppose the filibuster, the New York Times noted that, barring any unforeseen circumstances, “Hagel will almost certainly head the Defense Department.”
“[T]here appears to be enough GOP opposition to an unprecedented filibuster of a Cabinet nominee to, if necessary, generate the 60 votes required for cloture,” Roll Call reported on Tuesday.
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) suggested that President Obama “reconsider” Hagel’s nomination but when asked about McCain’s new position, the South Carolina Republican seemed unaware. “Did he say that? I didn’t see that. I’m not there yet. But filibustering is something I do very reluctantly,” he said, adding, “Time will tell what we should do.”
If the Republicans decide to filibuster, as MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow noted on Monday, “that means that the Republicans would have to do something historically unprecedented and truly radical if they are going to stop Chuck Hagel`s nomination.”
CNN reports that “there are now at least five Republican senators who would oppose a filibuster of former Sen. Chuck Hagel to be secretary of defense, all but ensuring the embattled nominee will be confirmed in the coming days.”