Hagel Cloture Vote Set for 4:15; Sen. Merkley Reminds Democrats That They Could Have Avoided This

The U.S. Senate will vote on cloture for Chuck Hagel’s nomination at 4:15 p.m., which means one of two things.

1) Sen. John McCain and Sen. Lindsey Graham are satisfied by what they’ve heard back from the White House from Benghazi, and there are 60 votes for cloture. This is exceedingly unlikely.

2) Team McCain-Graham remains unsatisfied, and Hagel will get only 55-57 votes for cloture. In order to bring this up again after the recess, Sen. Harry Reid has to vote against cloture; given the shifting statements and promises of other Republicans this week, we don’t know whether pro-Hagel Republican Sens. Mike Johanns and Thad Cochran will back cloture. (We can assume Sen. Susan Collins will.)

Sen. Jeff Merkley, last seen running through the Senate like it was the end of Invasion of the Body Snatchers, has taken this opportunity to point out that watered-down rules reform—not one month old!—failed to prevent the first-ever filibuster of a Defense nominee.

Merely weeks after the Senate came together in a good-faith effort to fix the Senate’s problems, Senate Republicans are now engaging in the first-ever filibuster of a Secretary of Defense nominee. It is deeply disappointing that even when President Obama nominates a former conservative colleague of the GOP caucus, the minority is abusing the rules and the spirit of ‘advise and consent.’ If our step we took last month is to be successful, extraordinary stunts like today’s filibuster can’t happen.

Both McCain and Graham, today, said that they would vote for Hagel when the Senate returns from recess. So has Sen. Bob Corker. If there are no “bombshells,” in Graham’s phrasing, they’ll back Hagel. And the last time people expected a delay to lead to bombshells was a week ago, when the Armed Services Committee punted on a committee vote, adding 96 hours of delay, during which time exactly zero damaging news about Hagel emerged.

And here’s the letter the White House sent to McCain et al, which basically—but politely!—tells them to read the damn State Department internal report again.

Letter From the White House Counsel to McCain et al (2013.2.14) by