Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta will have to stay on the job a little bit longer.
Senators failed Thursday night to move toward a vote on Chuck Hagel’s nomination to be the next Defense Secretary.
A procedural vote vote was 58-40. 60 Senators were needed to break a filibuster. But the filibuster does not appear destined to be permanent.
Sen. Hatch, R-Utah, voted present. Four Republicans voted with the Democrats to end debate: Sens. Mike Johanns of Nebraska, Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski Alaska and Thad Cochran of Mississippi.
This marks the first time a Cabinet nominee has ever been blocked in this fashion.
So what happens next?
The Senate will recess for the president’s day holiday, until Monday, February 25th. They will take up Hagel’s nomination again then.
In the intervening ten days, Republicans say they will use that time to gather additional information on Hagel, including getting transcripts of speeches Hagel has given and certain financial disclosures that they have not been provided yet. To note – Republicans are satisfied now on the answers they’ve received from the White House on Benghazi, so they are only holding up the nomination now over details about Hagel.
Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., who has led the charge against Hagel, said that should there be no “bombshells” in any new information unearthed about Hagel in the next 20 days then Republicans will be supportive of moving forward to a final up or down vote on Hagel.
After cloture failed today, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., railed against Republicans for the filibuster.
“Just when you thought things couldn’t get worse, it gets worse,” Reid said of obstruction in Congress. “We need to have a Secretary of Defense on the job.”
READ MORE: Defense Secretary Hagel? Not So Fast.
A Defense official told ABC News “the Secretary of Defense, he will continue to perform the duties of the Secretary of Defense until such time that a new Secretary of Defense is confirmed by the Senate.”
Throughout the day today there was consensus among Republicans, calling for Reid to delay any vote this week, wait the week of recess and come back on the 25th to vote.
Sens. John McCain, Graham and Kelly Ayotte today seemed preliminarily satisfied with their looming questions over Benghazi, based on a letter received from the White House today.
But some Republicans, including Graham, admit they still have Hagel-specific questions that have not been answered. Specifically, Graham pointed to a new speech of Hagel’s being uncovered in which, according to Graham, Hagel may have said “the United States state department was an extension of the Israeli government.”
After getting that information, including the transcripts of these last speeches, Republicans said they’d be ready to have a full vote.
“This is a very controversial nominee, there is a desire to not end debate now,” Sen. Graham, R-S.C., said today, “we feel like come back next week, after the break, unless there is some bombshell I’d be ready to move on to vote…. ten days from now I’ll feel better about it.”
Many Republicans today said they felt the same way, they would allow an “up or down” vote on Hagel if given the time between now and after president’s day recess.
“I think that would be an appropriate time,” Sen. Lamar Alexander said, “I think in the end we should vote up or down on cabinet nominees, but I don’t think we should prematurely cut off debate on a US Secretary of defense nomination two days after committee.”
But Reid, by forcing a vote for today, may be trying to make a political point – being able to say when the cloture vote fails today that the Republicans for the first time ever have filibustered a nominee for Secretary of Defense.