PolitiFact: John Cornyn said move to delay Hagel nomination is 'not a filibuster'

Published Feb. 20, 2013

The statement

Says of a failed cloture vote on nominating Chuck Hagel for defense secretary: "This is not a filibuster."

Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, in a speech on the Senate floor

The ruling

Some Republicans in the U.S. Senate aren't very happy that their old colleague, Chuck Hagel of Nebraska, has now been nominated to be President Barack Obama's defense secretary.

So when majority leader Harry Reid of Nevada brought the Hagel nomination to the floor on Feb. 14 for a procedural vote known as "cloture," he couldn't muster enough votes. Cloture requires 60 votes, and enough Republicans opposed the move so that cloture failed.

Reid complained that Republicans were obstructing for political reasons. "We know how the tea party goes after Republicans when they aren't conservative enough," Reid said. "Is that something they need to have on their resume: I filibustered one of the President's nominees? Is that what they want?"

Not so, Republicans replied.

"This is not any attempt to kill this nomination. This is not a filibuster," Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, said in the floor debate. "I realize it is the headline the majority leader would like the newspapers to write."

Reid said it was a filibuster; Cornyn said it wasn't. Which is it?

Several experts we spoke with said the failed cloture vote does constitute a filibuster.

Sarah Binder, a political scientist and author of Stalemate: Causes and Consequences of Legislative Gridlock, said she thought cloture vote on the Hagel nomination was a filibuster: "The GOP actions against Hagel constitute a filibuster because the majority has been prevented from getting to a vote on confirmation."

Steven S. Smith, a professor of political science at Washington University in St. Louis, agreed. So did another filibuster expert, Gregory Koger of the University of Miami. "In the modern Senate, 'holding' a nomination and forcing the majority to shut off debate using the cloture process is a filibuster," Koger said.

Cornyn argues that the Hagel cloture vote was an attempt to get more information, not kill the nomination outright. And, it was Reid who chose to schedule the cloture vote when he did, before senators were satisfied, Cornyn said.

We'll cut Cornyn a little slack. But just a little. We rate his statement Mostly False.

This report has been edited for print. Read the full version at