But it looks like Hagel has enough votes to overcome a maneuver that would have been unprecedented in modern political history.
Lawmakers routinely insist that cabinet nominees get the courtesy of an up-or-down vote in the Senate, but Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell suggested that the GOP was weighing a move to block Hagel. McConnell said it was unclear whether Hagel might "end up having to achieve 60 votes or 51."
The White House says it would be "stunned if, in the end, Republican senators choose to try to block the nomination of a decorated war veteran who was once among their colleagues in the Senate as a Republican."
Enough Republicans agree, including one of Hagel's toughest critics, U.S. Sen. John McCain.
"I do not believe a filibuster is appropriate and I would oppose such a move," McCain has said.
Republican U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander backed up McCain: "It would be unprecedented for the Senate not to allow an up-or-down vote on a president's Cabinet nomination."
So Hagel and Obama will what they want, a vote in the Senate.
But they are not guaranteed a positive outcome. McCain, Alexander and some other moderate Republicans declined to say whether they would support Hagel.
The administration should be careful what it wishes for. It may end up being dealt an embarrassing defeat.