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US Senate panel to vote on defense nominee Hagel

US Senate panel to vote on defense nominee Hagel

Chuck Hagel faced his first major hurdle in his bid to become U.S. defense secretary as a bitterly divided Senate Armed Services Committee pushed toward a vote Tuesday on his nomination.
"The time has come for the committee to act on this nomination," Chairman Carl Levin, a Democrat, told the panel at the start of a session certain to be filled with lengthy speeches.
President Barack Obama tapped Hagel, 66, a former Republican senator and twice-wounded Vietnam War combat veteran to succeed Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, who is stepping down after four years as CIA director and Pentagon chief.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Democrat, is pressing for a full Senate vote later this week, most likely on Thursday.
Hagel faces fierce opposition from fellow Republicans who have challenged his past statements and votes on Israel, Iran, Iraq and nuclear weapons. When he was in the Senate Hagel often bucked his party on some issues. i
Just hours before the vote, foes circulated a memo arguing for more information about Hagel's personal finances and highlighting past statements by Democratic senators demanding further disclosures when the Senate considered nominees by Republican presidents.
Committee Republicans forced a delay in the expected vote last week when they pressed Hagel for further data.
Levin said the Republican demands were beyond the scope of those traditionally asked of previous nominees, Republican and Democrat _ a point echoed by his Republican colleague, Sen. John McCain. Levin set a committee vote that will probably break along party lines _ 14 Democrats for Hagel, 12 Republicans against their former colleague _ just hours before Obama's State of the Union address to Congress.
If Hagel is approved in committee, as expected, he faces Republican delaying tactics, called a filibuster, in the full Senate, with the panel's ranking Republican, Sen. Jim Inhofe, insisting that any confirmation be based on 60 votes rather than a majority of the 100-member Senate.
But that effort has divided Republicans, with several longtime members opposed to the unprecedented step of stalling a president's Cabinet nominee for defense secretary.
Late Monday, McCain met privately with several committee Republicans and urged them not to delay the Hagel nomination, pointing out that the roles could be reversed someday with a Republican president and Republican-controlled Senate.
"I'm encouraging my colleagues if they want to vote against Sen. Hagel that's one thing and that's a principled stand," McCain told a group of reporters. "We do not want to filibuster. We have not filibustered a Cabinet appointee in the past and I believe that we should move forward with his nomination, bring it to the floor and vote up or down."
McCain has not said how he would vote on the nomination, but has indicated he was learning against confirmation.
All 55 Democrats are expected to back Hagel, and two Republicans _ Sens. Thad Cochran and Mike Johanns _ have said they will vote for the nominee. At least five Republicans, including McCain, have said they oppose a filibuster despite their reservations or opposition toward the nominee.
More than a dozen Republicans have said they will oppose their former colleague, and several others have indicated they are likely to vote no. Sen. Kelly Ayotte, a Republican member of the Armed Services Committee, said Tuesday she would vote against the nominee, citing his performance at his confirmation hearing.
Hagel seemed ill-prepared under withering cross-examination from committee Republicans in nearly eight hours of testimony on Jan. 31. He was repeatedly pressed about past statements and votes on Israel, Iran and nuclear weapons, with Republican lawmakers suggesting he wasn't sufficiently supportive of Israel or anti-Iran.


Updated : 2021-10-16 11:26 GMT+08:00