Chuck Hagel’s nomination to be defense secretary won’t be voted on by the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee this week, according to the panel’s chairman.
“I had hoped to hold a vote on the nomination this week, but the committee’s review of the nomination is not yet complete,” Senator Carl Levin, the Michigan Democrat who heads the panel, said yesterday in an e-mailed statement. “I intend to schedule a vote on the nomination as soon as possible.”
President Barack Obama’s nomination of Hagel, a former Republican senator from Nebraska, to succeed the retiring Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, has been criticized by Republicans on matters such as his past opposition to unilateral sanctions against Iran and his comments about the influence of what he once called “the Jewish lobby.”
Republicans said yesterday that they weren’t ready for a vote because they weren’t satisfied by information provided by Hagel. They said he refused to answer their questions about payments he received to give speeches and whether other sources from abroad provided funds to companies and organizations with which he has been associated.
“This committee, and the American people, have a right to know if a nominee for secretary of defense has received compensation, directly or indirectly, from foreign sources,” Senator Ted Cruz of Texas and 25 colleagues said in a letter to Hagel yesterday.
At his confirmation hearing before the Armed Services panel on Jan. 31, Hagel said that he supports the current, multinational sanctions against Iran and that he should have referred to “the pro-Israel lobby” instead of the “Jewish lobby.”
Democrats control 55 of the 100 seats in the Senate, and Levin predicted last week that all of them will back Hagel once the nomination gets to the Senate floor. In addition, at least five Republicans have said they would help muster the supermajority of 60 votes that would be needed to overcome an attempt to block a vote on him.
Today, the Senate panel will hear testimony from Panetta and General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, on the September attack on the U.S. mission in Benghazi, Libya. Senator Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican, had demanded that they answer questions about the military’s inability to respond quickly to the deadly attack before action on Hagel’s nomination.