Republicans block vote on Obama's defense nominee

Updated: 2013-02-15 09:04


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WASHINGTON  -- US President Barack Obama's nomination of Chuck Hagel for defense secretary was blocked Thursday in the Senate, after a vote failed to garner the 60 votes needed to end debate on the matter.

The vote was 50 to 40, falling short of the 60-vote supermajority. As members of Congress were set to leave for President's Day recess on Friday, the Senate would reschedule another vote when they come back late February.

Four Republicans, including Susan Collins of Maine, Thad Cochran of Mississippi, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Mike Johanns of Nebraska joined Democrats and Independents in support of the nomination.

Republicans have been calling for more time to consider the nomination, saying it was too early to clear Hagel's nomination, but they are open to an up-or-down vote after the Senate returns on February 25.

Some GOP senators have used the nomination to leverage the White House into giving them more information on last year's attack on US Consulate in Benghazi, Libya.

Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid scheduled the vote Thursday after failing to secure enough Republican support for the nomination. Media reports indicated that Democrats were trying to cast Republicans as obstructionists with the doomed vote.

Earlier Thursday, Reid scolded Republicans for holding up the nomination, saying it was the first filibuster of a defense nominee in history. Republicans bristled at the notion, saying Hagel will almost surely be confirmed after the recess.