As long as there are no new bombshells, Chuck Hagel has the votes.
Hagel cleared the threshold when five-term Republican Sen. Richard Shelby of Alabama said he would vote for the former GOP senator from Nebraska after joining other Republicans last week in an unprecedented filibuster of the Pentagon nominee.
“He’s probably as good as we’re going to get,” Shelby told the Decatur (Ala.) Daily.
Although a Republican, Hagel has faced strong GOP opposition, with many of his former colleagues voting last week to stall the nomination. Republicans have questioned Hagel’s support for Israel, tolerance of Iran and willingness to cut the nuclear arsenal. His opposition to the Iraq war after his initial vote for the conflict angered his onetime friend, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz.
GOP lawmakers demanded more time to review the nomination that a divided Armed Services Committee had approved on a party-line vote.
Shelby’s support was a clear sign of weakening Republican opposition, and it prompted two letters within hours from Hagel’s fiercest GOP foes. One letter went to the president calling on him to withdraw the nomination, the other to GOP senators pleading with them to stand together against Hagel.