For those following at home, today's developments:=
- 58 senators, from states representing roughly two-thirds of the nation's population, voted in favor of acting on Chuck Hagel's nomination as secretary of defense. At least 55 of those senators would have voted to confirm Hagel. [Update: as explained below*, the "real" number of senators who wanted a vote was 59, not 58.]
- Nominations for this job have never before been subject to filibuster, or other than a simple majority vote.
- Nonetheless, the 40 senators who oppose Hagel [actually, 39 senators*], from states representing about one-third of the U.S. population, are blocking, for the first time ever, a president's ability to fill this role in his Cabinet.
4039 senators forcing this blockage don't want what they're doing to be called a "filibuster," because late in the game (after six years of filibustering everything) they have become nervous about this term. But it is the only honest description of what a minority that includes Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham, each of whom has said he wouldn't "filibuster" this nomination, is doing now.
Republicans denied that their actions constituted a filibuster because they expect Hagel to be confirmed, and they insisted they will allow a simple-majority vote on the nomination later this month.
Sure, that makes sense.