The Senate voted narrowly on Thursday to block a vote on confirmation of President Barack Obama's choice of Chuck Hagel as defense secretary, planning another vote for February 26 - when it is expected to pass.
The tally was 58-40, with almost every Republican voting no, falling short of the 60 needed to pass a motion in the 100-seat chamber to stop debate and allow a vote by the full Senate on confirming the former Republican senator to the post.
The Senate's Democratic majority leader, Harry Reid, said the Senate would vote again on the motion on February 26, after it returns from a week-long recess. Republicans said they expected the motion would pass then, after they have had more time to consider the nomination, clearing the way for the full Senate to vote on Hagel's confirmation.
With Democrats controlling a majority of 55 votes in the Senate, Hagel's nomination is expected to win the simple majority of 51 votes it needs to be passed by the full Senate once such a vote is allowed.