The White House has said that President Barack Obama "stands strongly behind" former Senator Chuck Hagel as his nominee for Defense Secretary despite a move by Republicans for a full-scale filibuster of his nomination.
"The President believes that Senator Hagel would do a wonderful job in a very important role, which is leading the Department of Defense at a challenging time for our country," Principal Deputy Press Secretary Josh Earnest told reporters aboard Air Force One that took Obama to Decatur, Georgia, on Thursday.
In an unprecedented move in the Senate earlier in the day, the GOP senators succeeded in blocking Hagel's nomination as a cloture vote fell short of the 60-vote threshold the upper chamber needed to move toward a final confirmation vote.
Although the Senate vote -- 58 to 40 -- paves the way to continue debate on the presidential defense nominee, the White House expressed hope that Hagel would eventually be confirmed when the Senate returns from recess on February 25th.
Earnest said "We need our new Defense Secretary to be there" for a defense ministerial meeting next week in Brussels, "where the U.S. will meet with our allies who are currently making important contributions to the effort in Afghanistan to talk about the transition that's underway in Afghanistan."
"It does not send a favorable signal for Republicans in the United States Senate to delay a vote on the President's nominee -- a nominee who is a member of their own party -- to be the Secretary of Defense. It's difficult to explain to our allies exactly why that's happening. It also sends a signal to our men and women in uniform who are currently deployed around the globe and who are currently serving on the front lines in Afghanistan and are taking fire today. They need a new Secretary of Defense," the White House official told reporters.
He urged Republicans to drop their delay of Hagel's nomination, as "there is a clear majority in the Senate for Senator Hagel's confirmation." These delaying tactics are unconscionable and they should end right away, he added.
Earnest said the government is in regular consultation with the senators on Capitol Hill about getting over this delay.
by RTT Staff Writer
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