So it's official: Thanks to a handful of Democratic senators who blocked filibuster reform, Senate Republicans have successfully blocked the Senate from voting on the confirmation of Sen. Chuck Hagel as secretary of defense, at least for the time being.
Fifty-eight senators voted to move forward with the nomination process, short of the 60 votes needed to end a filibuster. Four Republicans joined 54 Democrats on the losing side. Forty-one Republicans supported the winning side. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid also voted against proceeding, but his vote was purely procedural—voting against proceeding allows him to bring the vote back up again in the future. If there'd been enough votes to hit 60, he'd have voted in favor of ending the filibuster.
This doesn't kill the Hagel nomination—it merely means Senate Republicans have exercised their power to block a vote on the nomination. However, even though at least 57 senators support his nomination, it does mean that unless two more Republicans agree to allow a vote on the nomination, Hagel won't be confirmed by the Senate without fixing the filibuster.
The whole thing is something of a dark comedy. Last month, a handful of Senate Democrats blocked efforts to reform the filibuster. If they hadn't blocked reform, Republicans would have been required to actually speak on the floor to continue their filibuster. Instead, they settled on a handshake agreement between Majority Leader Harry Reid and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. And now, to nobody's surprise, McConnell is stabbing Reid in the back.
Just before the vote, Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK) actually claimed Republicans weren't filibustering Hagel. Instead, he said, they were merely asking for a 60-vote threshold. Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI), who was one of the handful of Democrats to kill filibuster reform, then took the floor to explain that Inhofe was in fact completely full of shit.
If nothing else, today's vote should be a lesson to Levin, Reid, and other Senate Democrats that they made a mistake to give up on filibuster reform. Fortunately, it's a mistake they can fix—if they choose to act. Please sign the petition to tell Harry Reid: Re-open filibuster reform in light of continued Republican obstructionism.
2:02 PM PT: Reid says the Senate will vote again on Tuesday to move forward with the Hagel nomination. Wouldn't it be nice if instead of losing another vote on Tuesday they instead voted to reform the filibuster?
2:12 PM PT: Apparently, it won't be next Tuesday, it'll be Tuesday February 26.
2:14 PM PT: Republican senators are continuing to deny that this is a filibuster. But they are full of crap. Proof:
2:17 PM PT: They are seriously having a debate on the senate floor about whether this is actually a filibuster. Jesus. What a complete bunch of assholes.
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