“I will not participate in any walkout of tomorrow’s Committee vote — an action that would be disrespectful to Chairman Levin and at odds with the best traditions of the Senate Armed Services Committee,” McCain said.
But while there is agreement on holding a vote in committee, there are vast divisions over the Hagel nomination as it goes to the floor.
Over the weekend, Inhofe threatened to push for a 60-vote threshold for the floor vote on Hagel, while Lindsey Graham of South Carolina suggested he would place a hold on Hagel’s nomination until — and if — the Obama administration releases more information about last year’s fatal attack on a U.S. facility in Benghazi, Libya.
“I think people will line up to put holds on him once he hits the floor,” one senior GOP aide said.
The aide said that while there have been a number of occasions where nominations were held to a 60-vote threshold, far fewer Cabinet-level posts have been forced to meet that threshold. Indeed, a Cabinet nomination has never been successfully blocked by filibuster.
Inhofe told the National Review on Monday that he would insist on a 60-vote threshold for Hagel.
“Hagel may be passed out of the committee, but it’s going to be a long, long time before he hits the floor,” Inhofe said. “We’re going to need as much time as possible, and there are going to be several of us who will have holds.”
A GOP aide noted that not since the 1989 nomination of John Tower to take over the Defense Department under George Bush’s administration has there been such discord over a Defense nomination. Tower eventually lost the vote on the Senate floor.
“I have to put it on par with Tower,” the senior GOP aide said. “That is how contentious this is. This is a contentious nomination that needs the process that we have gone through.”
But McCain and Graham made what appeared to be contradictory statements to reporters Monday night about the wisdom of moving ahead with a filibuster, with Graham insisting on the strategy of tying confirmations to getting information on Benghazi.
“I’m going to insist that the president account for his leadership that night in the most basic way. Did he personally get involved? To me, the only leverage I have is these nominations,” Graham said in reference to Hagel and the nomination of John O. Brennan to be CIA director. “I hate that, but that’s the way the system works, unfortunately.” Graham added that he thought McCain would be right there with him.
McCain, however, said he does not see a reason to obstruct Hagel moving ahead if the votes are there. The Arizona Republican was at a meeting of SASC Republicans this afternoon, but “very few were there because of the weather.”
“I’m encouraging my colleagues that if they want to vote against Sen. Hagel, that’s one thing and that’s a principled stand. We do not want to filibuster. We have not filibustered Cabinet appointees in the past,” McCain said. There has never been a successful filibuster of a Cabinet pick leading to an individual being denied his or her seat.