By Lisa Desjardins, CNN
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Capitol Hill (CNN) – The nomination of Chuck Hagel to be Secretary of Defense has hit a snag. Not just by questions about the former senator, the attack in Benghazi, and partisan politics. It's also caught on what may be a massive shift in the balance of power between Congress and the President.
[:23] Don Ritchie, historian of the U.S. Senate says, “Since WWII, at least, the executive branch has taken over a great deal of power…And Congress has sort of felt that they’ve lost in this process.”
To wrest power back to the legislative branch, Ritchie says Congress has employed a number of means, with the blocking of presidential nominations in the Senate at the top of the list.
Nominees could not be blocked by filibuster, or cloture, votes until 1949, but even after that the move was rare. It happened only 11 times in the next 43 years, according to the Congressional Research Service.
Then, it suddenly took off, with Republicans forcing cloture votes on 19 nominees during the Clinton administration. Democrats returned, and expanded on, the favor with 38 cloture votes on President George W. Bush’s nominees.
The vast majority of those were blocks or threatened blocks on judges or lower-level nominees. But Thursday’s vote was a first. Never before had a cabinet nominee failed a cloture vote.
For more on why the balance of power is shifting and how the nominee process gives leverage to Congress, listen to our story.