Senate Democrats filed a motion on Wednesday to end debate on the nomination of Chuck Hagel as President Barack Obama’s new secretary of defense after Republicans refused to allow a vote, setting up a showdown vote by Friday.
Democrats are expected to muster the 60 votes needed in the 100-member chamber to clear a Republican procedural roadblock, clearing the way for a vote on his confirmation.
Once the roadblock is cleared, Hagel is expected to win the simple majority he needs to be confirmed.
Democrats control 55 seats in the Senate and none has come out against Hagel, a former Republican senator from Nebraska who has faced fierce opposition from members of his own party.
At least two of the 45 Republicans in the chamber have said they would vote for Hagel’s confirmation, and several others, including Maine Senator Susan Collins on Wednesday, have said they would not support a procedural tactic to block or delay a vote even though they oppose Hagel’s confirmation.
Hagel broke from his party by opposing former President George W. Bush’s handling of the Iraq War, angering his former colleagues. Some Republicans also have raised questions about whether Hagel, 66, is sufficiently supportive of Israel, tough enough on Iran or capable of leading the Pentagon.
Hagel’s performance during his confirmation hearing before the Armed Services Committee drew harsh criticism. Even some Democrats have said he appeared unprepared and at times hesitant in the face of aggressive questioning.
Harry Reid, the Senate Democratic leader, filed the motion to end debate after Republicans refused to give unanimous consent to allow a vote on Hagel’s confirmation.
“It’s the first time in the history of our country that a presidential nominee for secretary of defense has been filibustered,” Reid said. “What a shame. But, that’s the way it is.”