More to the point, this may prove to be just the incentive Democrats need when it comes to passing meaningful filibuster reform – as opposed to the watered-down measure passed last month – in order to put more constraints on the power of the minority.
In hindsight, it's telling that Majority Leader Harry Reid (D) decided to go ahead with the cloture vote, knowing he probably didn't have the 60 votes needed to end debate and proceed to an up-or-down vote on Hagel's nomination. Reid could have just delayed the matter, while Democrats tried to get one more Republican to agree to cloture. But instead he forced the other side to go through with their filibuster threat.
As Sen. John Cornyn (R) of Texas theorized later: "The White House and the majority leader were determined to have this vote in order to try to get a story in the newspaper, one that misrepresents the nature of the objection on [the Republican] side."
Indeed, Senator Reid immediately charged those Republicans blocking Hagel's nomination with jeopardizing the nation's security in order to please their base. "Watching Republicans with otherwise distinguished records on national security place their desire to please the tea party ahead of doing the right thing for our troops is one of the saddest spectacles I have witnessed in my 27 years in the Senate," Reid said on the floor Thursday night.