Two senior Republican members of the Senate Armed Services Committee told The Cable, a blog at Foreign Policy magazine, Tuesday that they will block a vote on Chuck Hagel's nomination for secretary of defense until he discloses all of his recent paid speeches and an allegation of misconduct in his old Senate office is fully investigated.
On the other hand, CNN reported Tuesday that there are now at least five Republican senators who would oppose a filibuster, which should ensure Hagel’s confirmation if he can get out of committee.
According to a CNN survey of senators, the five are Thad Cochran of Mississippi and Mike Johanns of Nebraska, who both support Hagel, and John McCain of Arizona, Richard Burr of North Carolina and Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, who all oppose Hagel's nomination but also disagree with blocking it by filibuster.
At least five other Republican senators – Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Dean Heller of Nevada and Roy Blunt of Missouri -- have said they are not inclined to back a filibuster but haven't made a final decision.
Since the Senate has 53 Democrats and two allied independents, only five Republican votes would be needed to break a filibuster threat. No Democrats have broken ranks, and Sen. Kay Hagan, D-N.C., announced her support Tuesday.
At Hagel's Jan. 31 confirmation hearing, ranking Republican Sen. James Inhofe of Oklahoma noted that the committee had requested Hagel provide all of the speeches he had delivered over the last five years, since he left the Senate, including disclosing who paid him for them, The Cable reports. Committee Chairman Carl Levin, D-Mich., gave Hagel a deadline of Monday at 5 p.m. to provide more information for the record. Hagel testified that many of his speeches were private, not videotaped, and often did not include prepared remarks, but that he would comply with all legal requirements.
On Tuesday afternoon, committee member Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., told The Cable that the deadline had passed and that the committee had not been given the information it requested, specifically on who paid Hagel to give speeches.
"A number of senators wrote and asked for additional financial information that I thought was reasonable, and the chairman agreed and directed that information be provided by yesterday. It has not been provided. Those were reasonable requests," Sessions said. "I believe the request for financial information was legitimate and should be complied with before a vote takes place."
Sessions also told The Cable that he was waiting for the results of a previously undisclosed investigation by the Republican committee staff into a complaint by a former aide involving another Hagel aide. Three GOP congressional aides confirmed that the committee was looking into the complaint, although there is no evidence that Hagel was directly involved or even was aware of the incident.
The aides said that over the last two weeks, the minority committee staff had interviewed several former Hagel staffers who came forward to complain about how the former senator had managed his office. The staff found none of their complaints worth pursuing aside from that of the one former junior female staffer, whom the committee interviewed late last month. According to Sessions and all three aides, she told the committee she had been sexually harassed by a senior male staffer while working in Hagel's office in 2007.
Lou Ann Linehan, Hagel's chief of staff at the time of the alleged incident, told The Cable:
"I remember handling it, I thought it was handled. I did not bring it to the senator. I would not have taken it to the senator unless it required a termination and that wasn't the case," she said. "The term sexual harassment shocks me a little bit. I wouldn't have put up with anything that was actually sexual harassment. I had a very low tolerance for it. I don't put up with that stuff. Hagel didn't tolerate it, I didn't tolerate it."
Other Republican senators are focusing on Hagel's financial disclosures. Armed Services Committee member Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., sent Hagel a signed by six senators last week asking for the text of all of his speeches, information on who paid for them, and whether foreign entities had given any money to organizations Hagel has worked with in a leading role.
A source working on the Hagel confirmation for the administration told The Cable that a response to Wicker's letter was being sent to senators Tuesday but declined to characterize it.
Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., a leading foe of Hagel on the committee, told The Cable Tuesday that he does not think a committee vote should proceed until the nominee provides more information about his past speeches.
"Chuck has said some things that are out of the mainstream, and I don't think it's unfair to say, ‘Tell us who you spoke to, particularly when you got paid,'" Graham said. "He's said he's given hundreds of speeches; we've only gotten [information about] four. We know he's received money from different groups, but we don't know who they are, who backs him, who funds him."
Graham also said he has not yet decided on whether he would support a filibuster.
Earlier Tuesday, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney asserted the Obama administration sees "momentum" behind Hagel's confirmation, Talking Points Memo reported. "The president believes he will be confirmed and looks forward to him serving as secretary of defense," he said.
A spokesman for Levin told The Cable that the committee has yet to schedule the vote on Hagel's nomination, but it could come Thursday.