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Senate GOP filibusters Hagel confirmation

Updated 5:45 p.m. ET

Senate Republicans succeeded in filibustering the confirmation of President Obama's nominee for defense secretary, Chuck Hagel, effectively blocking his confirmation for the time being.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, R-Nev., has scheduled another attempt to break the filibuster for the week of February 24, following a week-long recess when senators will be home for the Presidents' Day state work period.

Reid had originally scheduled votes on Hagel's nomination for Friday but moved the first procedural vote to this afternoon, setting up a showdown between Democrats and Republicans and daring the GOP to block Hagel's confirmation. It takes 60 votes to end a filibuster; Democrats only mustered 58 votes today.

"Just when you think things couldn't get worse, it gets worse," Reid said after the vote. "At times like this, it's nice to have a secretary of defense, not a lame duck."

President Obama, during a Google+ Hangout after the vote, said, "It's unfortunate that this kind of politics intrudes at time when I'm presiding over war in Afghanistan."

Senate Republicans' resistance to move forward on a final confirmation vote for Hagel stems from their sentiment that his appointment is being rushed through; the first step to his confirmation, clearing the Senate Armed Services Committee, occurred Tuesday. And since his confirmation hearing two weeks ago, Republicans have been demanding more answers from Hagel, specifically on his personal finances.

Others such as Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., threatened earlier this week to block Hagel's confirmation as a way to try to force the Obama administration to answer his questions about their handling of September's attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya.

However, the White House responded to Graham today and he said he was satisfied. He added that "unless there is some bombshell, I'd be ready to move on to vote" on Hagel - after the break. Other Republicans including Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., echoed Graham's sentiment.

"I think that during the break is sufficient time to get any additional questions answered and I will vote for cloture on the day we get back, and I believe that enough of my colleagues would do the same," McCain said today.

Earlier today, Reid slammed Republicans today for their vow to filibuster, incorrectly suggesting that current Defense Secretary Leon Panetta would be vacating the position today, leaving the Pentagon without a leader (while Panetta is heading to his California home, he will not step down until Hagel is confirmed as his successor, the Pentagon told CBS News).

That didn't stop Reid from dramatizing the matter.


"In less than two hours, our country will be without a secretary of defense," Reid incorrectly suggested on the Senate floor today. "Republicans have been telling our troops, you can have a leader later."

Reid noted again today that it is "unprecedented" for the Senate to filibuster a defense secretary nominee. Senate tradition dictates that the president has the prerogative to nominate whomever he chooses for Cabinet positions and that nominees should not be filibustered.

Hagel has "answered exhaustive questions about his record," Reid said. "He has the support of the president of the United States... He has the support of this body, a majority vote of this body... At a time when America faces so many threats... It's tragic they've decided to filibuster this qualified nominee."