Delay unlikely to affect final vote on Hagel as Defense secretary
WASHINGTON — Chuck Hagel's nomination to be the next Defense secretary remains on track despite Republican demands for additional information about his paid speeches and business dealings, the Democratic chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee said on Thursday.
The GOP requests dealt a setback to President Obama's pick, forcing the committee to announce late Wednesday it would postpone a vote on the nomination. A date has not been set.
Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., chairman of the committee, said the additional requests were extraordinary and that Hagel had complied with the panel. He said he would move ahead with a vote as soon as possible.
“We can't not vote because there's dissatisfaction. That would be endless,” Levin told reporters. “We're going to schedule a vote.”
Levin said he was confident the Senate would confirm Hagel, pointing out that none of the Senate's 55 Democrats oppose the nominee, that two Republicans have announced their support and that several other GOP senators have said they would not back a filibuster.
Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, said she would support Hagel's nomination after meeting with him Thursday.
“His confirmation is very much on track to me,” Levin said.
The White House said Hagel has given lawmakers exhaustive information but will continue to disclose more to the Senate panel considering his nomination.
White House spokesman Jay Carney said Hagel has turned over all available speech transcripts but that some of his speeches were never transcribed. He said it's vital that the Pentagon position be filled and urged the Senate to approve Hagel quickly.
Republicans had complained in a letter that Hagel didn't sufficiently answer questions, including details on all compensation of more than $5,000 that he had received over the past five years. They also pressed him on his recent speeches, which groups he has addressed and on donors to those groups.
“The 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,” Senate Republicans wrote. “Until the committee receives full and complete answers, it cannot in good faith determine whether you should be confirmed as secretary of Defense.”