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Washington • Sen. Orrin Hatch refused to take sides in a GOP effort to block the nomination of former Sen. Chuck Hagel for Defense secretary, with the Utah Republican voting "present" as the Senate failed by two votes to pass the threshold to advance to a confirmation vote.
Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, voted against moving Hagel forward, as Lee did in the Senate Armed Services Committee earlier this week.
Hatch, who served with Hagel when he was in the Senate, hasn't said how he will ultimately vote on the nominee, but the Utah senator isn't a fan of using procedural tactics to block an up-and-down vote on presidential nominees.
"This vote was unfortunate, unnecessary and could have been prevented had the White House and the nominee provided the information that was reasonably requested," Hatch said, referring to a Republican charge that Hagel has not been forthcoming with past speeches.
Hatch said he believes a president should have the chance to serve with the people he chooses, but "that deference is not limitless" and Hatch wants more information on Hagel before he decides if he's qualified to be Defense secretary.
Lee announced his opposition to Hagel last week and says that his position on national security is "weak" and his positions "dangerous."
"Senator Hagel has complied only with the bare minimum required by the committee regarding certain funding sources for his activities, although there are still many troubling questions," Lee said. "Instead of following precedents set by other top level Cabinet nominees, Senator Hagel has chosen to set up roadblocks."
Hagel needed 60 votes to advance to a final ballot because of Senate procedural rules, but he only received 58. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid later switched his vote against Hagel a move that allows him to bring up the motion again.