White House Senior Adviser Dan Pfeiffer has predicted confidently that former Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-NE) will be confirmed as Secretary of Defense next week.
"We're very confident of that. There's no question that there will be more than 50 votes to confirm Senator Hagel," Pfeiffer told Bloomberg News in an interview to be televised this evening.
Hagel's poor performance in his confirmation hearings yesterday before the Senate Armed Services Committee had surprised his supporters--including White House officials. The New York Times quoted one nervous White House adviser on Hagel's dismal showing: “It’s somewhere between baffling and incomprehensible.”
The early endorsement of Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) is thought to have sealed enough Democratic votes in the Senate to push Hagel past 50. However, the strong objections raised by Republicans during the hearings--and Hagel's troubling responses--may have encouraged the opposition to muster the 41 votes necessary to block the confirmation through a filibuster. (Republicans have a total of 45 votes in the upper chamber.)
If Hagel's nomination is withdrawn, there are several possible alternatives for the position. One of the most frequently mentioned is Pentagon veteran Michele Flournoy, who would be the first woman to serve as Secretary of Defense.