(WASHINGTON) — Calling the Republican filibuster of Chuck Hagel “unprecedented” and “tragic,” Senate majority leader Harry Reid blasted Senate Republicans for holding up confirmation of President Obama’s defense secretary nominee.
“There are serious consequences to this delay,” Reid, D-Nev., said from the Senate floor Thursday morning. “It’s shocking that my Republican colleagues would leave the nation without a fully empowered secretary of defense during all the things we have going on in the world.”
As of now the Senate vote is still scheduled for Friday morning. While Senate Democrats hope that the vote could be moved sooner, it is clear they do not yet have the 60 votes needed.
The Senate will head next week into a week-long recess for President’s Day. Reid said if Hagel is not moved through before then, it would leave the nation in limbo to operate without a defense secretary. He pointed to the NATO defense minister meeting in Brussels next week, noting that it would send a “terrible signal” to not have a U.S. secretary of defense at that meeting.
The Pentagon has said that current Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta intends to stay in office until Hagel is confirmed.
This would be the first time a filibuster is used against a defense secretary nominee and the third time it’s been used against a cabinet nominee. Republicans are demanding more information from the administration over the terrorist attack in Benghazi, and pledging to hold strong in their opposition for the Hagel nomination to go through until their questions are answered.
“Chuck Hagel had nothing to do with the attack in Benghazi,” Reid lamented on the floor of the Senate.
“This isn’t high school getting ready for a football game or some play that’s being produced at high school,” Reid concluded. “We’re trying to confirm somebody to run the defenses of our country, the military of our country.”
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