By Tuesday night, after voting against Hagel in committee, McCain joined Sens. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) and Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) in writing the White House, threatening to filibuster unless more information about the Benghazi attack was released.
By Thursday, after receiving that information, McCain and others called Cruz’s demands for more information on speeches “reasonable requests” that might turn up new information. “There are other questions that need to be answered, and we feel that the intervening week and a half, almost, is sufficient time to get those questions answered,” he told reporters just before supporting the filibuster.
Republicans do not know whether anything of note is in the speeches, but additional transcripts have been discovered this week. Others said they just need more time to consider a controversial nominee whose performance at a confirmation hearing was widely considered subpar.
“He came out of the committee two days ago,” said Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.). “My own view is that cutting off debate today is premature, and I won’t vote for that. When we come back from the recess 10 days from now, senators should have had sufficient time to consider Senator Hagel’s nomination, and I will vote to have an up-or-down vote.”
Democrats called it unnecessary and pointed to an intense vetting process by the FBI and the Senate Armed Services Committee that has provided senators with thousands of pages of information.
“He’s done everything he possibly can,” said Armed Services Chairman Carl Levin (D-Mich.). He called it “inappropriate to suggest the innuendo” from Cruz that Hagel has received money from estranged foreign governments.
Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta did little to hide his frustration about Hagel’s beleaguered nomination on Thursday, what was supposed to be his last day on the job.
Hosting former secretary of state Hillary Rodham Clinton at the Pentagon, the secretary said he was counting the days to fly home to California — for good.
After calling Clinton’s visit a “great Valentine’s Day present for all of us here,” Panetta said one additional item was on his wish list.
“The second-best Valentine’s present would be to allow Sylvia and I to get the hell out of town at the end of the day,” he said, referring to his wife and then invoking a Bill Murray movie in which the lead character keeps reliving the same day.
“I feel like it’s ‘Groundhog Day’ around here,” the secretary joked.
Hagel’s nomination has taken a similar path to that of Supreme Court Justice Samuel A. Alito in 2006, when Democrats were unable to find incriminating documents. Republicans mocked Democrats after halting a hearing to review material in the Library of Congress relating to Princeton University, his alma mater, coming up with nothing controversial.
Rank-and-file Democrats pressured their leaders into forcing a filibuster vote, but 19 Democrats joined all Republicans to reject a filibuster — 13 of whom then voted against Alito’s confirmation on a vote of 58 to 42.
Rosalind S. Helderman, Ernesto Londoño, Ed O’Keefe and Felicia Sonmez contributed to this report.