But the White House undercut that. A spokesman told reporters traveling with the president aboard Air Force One that Mr. Panetta would remain in office until a successor is confirmed. Still, the spokesman said Mr. Obama would like to have Mr. Hagel in office in time to attend a meeting of NATO defense ministers next week.
Defense secretaries are usually confirmed without trouble — and often by voice vote.
The one notable exception was John Tower, another former senator rejected by his colleagues in 1989. But rather than being filibustered by a minority, Mr. Tower was defeated outright on a 53-47 vote.
In Mr. Hagel’s case, some of his past statements and votes with respect to Israel and Iran have troubled Republicans.
Still, other Republicans said they are using Mr. Hagel’s nomination to try to pry more information from the White House on the events surrounding Benghazi. Mr. Graham and others say the administration has yet to answer a number of questions about the attack, the U.S. response and its aftermath.
Republicans said Democrats could have postponed the vote but pushed ahead in order to create a political issue.
“It’s an unfortunate vote, and it’s unfortunate to characterize this as a filibuster. This is a vote by Republicans to say we want more than two days,” said Sen. Lamar Alexander, Tennessee Republican.
Mr. Alexander talked about his own experience when he was nominated to be secretary of education, another Cabinet position, and a single senator blocked him for weeks.
But denying that the vote amounted to a filibuster drew an angry response from Mr. Reid.
“If this is not filibuster, I’d like to see what a filibuster was,” he said. “This is going to the absurd.”
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Stephen Dinan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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