The Republican filibuster of Chuck Hagel's nomination as defense secretary is "unprecedented" and "tragic," Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said today.
"There are serious consequences to this delay," Reid said from the Senate floor this morning. "It's shocking that my Republican colleagues would leave the nation without a fully empowered secretary of defense during all the things we have going on in the world."
The Senate vote is scheduled for Friday morning. While Senate Democrats hope that the timing could move to today, it is clear they do not have 60 votes needed to bring an end to Republican debate over President Obama's nomination of Hagel.
The Senate will head next week into a week-long recess for President's Day. Reid said if Hagel is not moved through before then, it would leave the nation without a defense secretary. He pointed to the NATO defense minister meeting in Brussels next week, noting that it would send a "terrible signal" to not have a U.S. secretary of defense at that meeting.
"What we have now in the Senate a situation where we're going to wind up without a secretary of defense at this time," Reid said.
The Pentagon has said the current Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta intends to stay in office until Hagel is confirmed.
This would be the first time a filibuster is used against a defense secretary nominee and the third time it's been used against a cabinet nominee. Republicans are demanding more information from the administration over the terrorist attack in Benghazi, Libya, and pledging to hold strong in their opposition for the Hagel nomination to go through until their questions are answered.
"Chuck Hagel had nothing to do with the attack in Benghazi," Reid lamented on the floor of the Senate.
"This isn't high school getting ready for a football game or some play that's being produced at high school," Reid said. "We're trying to confirm somebody to run the defenses of our country, the military of our country."