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Levin Says Committee Will Vote on Hagel as Soon as Possible

U.S. Senator Chuck Hagel
U.S. Senator Chuck Hagel, a Republican from Nebraska and nominee for defense secretary, listens to questions during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing in Washington, D.C.. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg

Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin said his panel will vote soon on Chuck Hagel’s nomination for defense secretary, while declining to predict whether it will be next week.

“We hope to move as quickly as we possibly can,” Levin, a Michigan Democrat, told reporters today. The Senate is taking a week-long break during the week of Feb. 17.

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 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.

Levin rejected that call for added information before a vote is held.

“He has provided all of the financial information that the rules of the committee require,” Levin said. Hagel “has been asked for information no prior nominee has been asked for,” Levin said.

Homestate Opponent

Today, first-term Senator Deb Fischer, a Republican from Hagel’s home state, said she will vote against him in the Armed Services Committee and on the Senate floor.

While Republican opposition to Hagel continued to mount, Levin has predicted he will win all 55 votes controlled by Democrats. At least 60 senators of both parties, including critics such as Republican Senator John McCain of Arizona, have said they would oppose any efforts to block a vote on the nomination -- enough to overcome the maneuver. By tradition, senators don’t seek to use the threat of a filibuster in votes on cabinet-level nominees.

“His confirmation looks very much on track to me,” Levin said. “I’m confident he’ll be confirmed.”

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