WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Senate Republicans have blocked a vote to confirm Secretary of Defense Nominee Chuck Hagel as defense secretary. The move forces Leon Panetta to remain in the job.
Republicans have also have given the White House an opening to cast the GOP as obstructing President Barack Obama's assembly of a second-term national security team.
Additionally, Republicans are insisting that the administration must first answer more questions about its handling of a terrorist attack on a U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya, last September. The vote to clear the way for an up-or-down vote fell just short of the needed 60.
President Obama says he didn't expect a quick confirmation process for Chuck Hagel. But, he says, he's losing his patience with Senate Republicans. "I'm still presiding over a war in Afghanistan and I need a Secretary of Defense who is coordinating with our allies to make sure that our troops are getting the kind of strategy and mission that they deserve."
Some of the GOP also want Chuck Hagel to hand over more information. Republicans are asking for details on speeches he's given in recent years and just how much he was paid. All this stalling means Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta has to push his retirement for at least another 10 days. "The second best Valentine's present would be to allow Sylvia and I to get the hell out of town at the end of the day. I feel like it's a ground hog day around here", says Panetta.
Many Senate Republicans say they will vote to confirm Hagel once they recieve more information.