(USA TODAY) -- The
White House denounced a possible filibuster of Defense Secretary
nominee Chuck Hagel on Thursday and demanded a confirmation vote this
week, saying the nation and the world need a leader in the Pentagon as soon as possible.
"These delaying tactics are unconscionable and they should end right away," said White House spokesman Joshua Earnest.
noted that the military faces massive budget cuts as part of the $85
billion budget sequester set to take effect March 1 unless the White
House and Congress reach a new debt reduction deal.
ministers are scheduled to meet in Brussels next week to discuss the
Afghanistan withdrawal, Earnest said, and "we need our new defense
secretary to be there."
Some Senate Republicans have threatened to
block a vote on Hagel's nomination, saying they want more financial
information from the nominee and more information from President Obama
about the deadly Sept. 11 attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi,
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., has filed a
motion to limit debate on Hagel and force a vote Friday, but he needs
60 votes to overcome a GOP filibuster. The Democratic caucus has a 55-45
advantage in the Senate, but it's not clear they have the five
Republican votes necessary to produce a confirmation vote.
clearly has the votes to be confirmed, Reid said, but Republicans are
seeking excuses to delay this and other Obama initiatives. "The
pattern has been clear for months," Reid said, "as soon as President
Obama's administration responds to one request, Republicans devise
another, more outlandish request."
Reid noted there
has never been a filibuster of a Defense secretary nominee, and he
called the potential development "shocking" and "tragic."
Citing his request for more information on what Obama knew about Benghazi, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said: "There
seems to not be much interest to hold this president accountable for a
national security breakdown that led to the first ambassador being
killed in the line of duty in over 30 years. No, the debate on Chuck
Hagel is not over. It has not been serious. We don't have the
information we need."
Throughout the confirmation
process, some Republicans have criticized Hagel -- a former GOP senator
from Nebraska -- by saying he has been too critical of Israel and too
soft on Iran and its nuclear ambitions. Some also cited what they called
Hagel's poor performance during his confirmation hearing.
House officials said Republicans are only re-litigating the debate over
the Iraq War, which Hagel initially supported and then turned against.
pointed out that Hagel is a Republican now being blocked by
Republicans, and that does not send "a favorable signal" to the world.
"It's difficult to explain to our allies exactly what's happening," Earnest said.