Setback For Hagel: Committee Delays Vote

  on February 06 2013 7:33 PM

 

The Senate Armed Services Committee delayed a vote on Chuck Hagel's confirmation as secretary of defense, the chairman said Wednesday, as Republicans demanded more information from the former Nebraska senator.

"The committee's vote on Senator Hagel's nomination has not been scheduled," Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., said in a statement reported by Reuters. "I had hoped to hold a vote on the nomination this week, but the committee's review of the nomination is not yet complete."

He said he intended to schedule a vote as soon as possible.

Levin had said after Hagel's contentious confirmation hearing last week that he hoped the panel would vote on Thursday.

But Republicans still demand more information on issues including the former Republican senator's business dealings and past speeches, and vow try to prevent a quick confirmation if they did not get it.

"I look for people to slow this train down, and let's get everything we need. And that's what I want to do," Sen. James Inhofe of Oklahoma, the committee's senior Republican, told reporters after a news conference on the defense budget.

Hagel has provided some information on his personal finances, but said he could not hand over all that has been requested because it was the property of private organizations that he was not authorized to disclose.

"The information you seek is legally controlled by the individual entities and not mine to disclose," Hagel said in a statement reported by BuzzFeed, adding that he was not involved in the day-to-day operation of the organizations. "As a board member, I have a fiduciary duty that includes the obligation to maintain the confidentiality of nonpublic corporate information. The information may also be subject to various other legal requirements or contractual arrangements that prohibit its disclosure."

A senior GOP aide close to the confirmation process told BuzzFeed, "Senators are not reacting well to this response."

"Hagel is refusing to answer any of the questions or make any effort to get them the answers," the aide said. "He is basically telling senators they have no right to know if he has been unduly influenced by foreign governments or foreign agents over the last five years. What is he hiding? I'm told several senators, including McCain, who have previously expressed opposition to a filibuster said privately yesterday that failure to disclose foreign funding information would change their thinking."

But a spokesman for Sen. McCain, R-Ariz., said the senator has not wavered in his opposition to using the filibuster to block Hagel.

"Senator McCain believes that members need to have their questions answered, but his position on filibuster is unchanged," he told BuzzFeed.

Some Republicans have demanded the texts of speeches by Hagel that he said were unavailable because he spoke extemporaneously. Others have said they were awaiting results of a 2007 sexual harassment claim against a former member of Hagel's staff by another member of his staff, Foreign Policy reported.

There was no indication Hagel was involved in the incident.

Democrats have characterized the Republicans' objections as a last-ditch effort to force President Barack Obama to withdraw Hagel's nomination, which is not likely.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., is among those Republicans who have explicitly asked the president to "reconsider" the choice of Hagel. 

"I don't think he's done anything unethical," Graham said, according to NBC. "He got paid to speak in front of groups; that's a common practice around here. I want to know who did he speak in front of, what did he say, and where did the money come from?"

Hagel faced a barrage of often heated questions about his record from fellow Republicans last week when he appeared before the Armed Services Committee, which must approve his nomination before it faces a vote in the full Senate.

But he looks likely to be approved both in the committee - where Democrats outnumber Republicans 14 to 12 - and in the full Senate, where the Democrats control a majority of the seats.

Hagel critcs had hoped a few Democrats could be persuaded to oppose him, mainly due to questions they have raised over whether he is sufficiently supportive of Israel and tough on Iran.

But no Democrat has come out against Hagel.

The committee will hear Thursday from Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey on the Benghazi attacks, NBC reports. Their appearance and testimony before a Hagel vote was one condition requested by Graham in order to leverage more access to information about the deadly attack in Libya. Graham said he would seek to put a hold on Hagel's confirmation vote until Panetta testified.

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