Frustrated Senate Democrats blasted their Republican colleagues Thursday for holding up a vote on the nomination of former Sen. Chuck Hagel to be secretary of defense.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said early Thursday that he was informed that Republicans were engaged in a full-fledged fililbuster of Hagel's nomination as they await more information from the White House.
"My Republlican colleagues had led us to believe they would not filibuster Senator Chuck Hagel's confirmation as Secretary of Defense. But that has changed now," Reid said in a statement. "Now, Senate Republicans have made it clear they intend to mount a full-scale filibuster, and block the Senate from holding a final passage vote on Senator Hagel's nomination. Make no mistake: Republicans are trying to defeat Senator Hagel's nomination by filibustering while submitting extraneous requests that will never be satisfied."
Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., chair of the Senate Armed Services Committee, suggested that some Republicans are taking a reckless course with the filibuster.
Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and other key Republicans have expressed skepticism about Hagel, a Republican from Nebraska and a twice-wounded decorated Vietnam veteran. They have raised questions about sometimes controversial statements Hagel has made about Israel, Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan and nuclear weapons.
The White House Thursday shrugged off the filibuster and showed no sign of withdrawing Hagel's name from consideration.
"The president stands strongly behind Sen. Hagel," Josh Earnest, a White House spokesman, told reporters. "The president believes Sen. Hagel will do a wonderful job in a very important role, which is leading the Deparment of Defense at a challenging time for our country. We need our new secretary of defense in place."