Senate Republicans halted the confirmation of Georgetown professor and former Sen. Chuck Hagel(R-Neb.) Thursday.
Winning confirmation typically requires a simple majority of 51 votes, but Senate Republicans filibustered Senate proceedings, preventing the chamber from moving forward to vote on Hagel’sconfirmation.
Only 58 senators voted to advance the confirmation process, two short of breaking the filibuster.
President Barack Obama nominated Hagel for secretary of defense Jan. 7. Since that time, Hagelhas faced intense scrutiny from congressional Republicans, despite serving in the Senate as a Republican from Nebraska from 1997 to 2009.
“Has this ever happened before in history? Not to a nominee to the Defense Department,” Senator Carl Levin (D-MI) said. “This is too important a position to leave in this ambiguous state.”
Republicans said they did not yet want to cast their votes for Hagel’s confirmation because they want more information from the White House about Hagel and about the September attack on the American diplomatic buildings in Benghazi, Libya.
“Nobody wants to filibuster the nomination,” Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) told reporters. “But on our side there’s a consensus that we need more information, and we have a right to get it.”
The White House wrote a letter to the senators, urging them to proceed with the confirmation process.
“We continue to urge the full Senate to act swiftly and confirm former Senator Hagel,” the letter said.
Current Defense Secretary Leon Panetta had planned to step down from his post Friday. He will continue serving until his replacement has been confirmed.
Some Republicans have said they will allow the confirmation vote to proceed in 10 days when the Senate returns from their President’s Day recess.
Only twice before has the Senate filibustered the confirmation of a cabinet member. This is the first time, however, that the procedural technique has been used on a nominee for defense secretary.