Serious questions remain about prospective defense secretary Chuck Hagel after Senate Armed Services Committee chairman Carl Levin (D., Mich.) abruptly postponed a vote on Hagel’s nomination Wednesday, a move that has reinvigorated Hagel’s critics.
Republicans are still seeking transcripts and documents pertaining to the hundreds of speeches Hagel has given over the years, as well as information about the various groups that have paid him to speak.
Hagel on Tuesday declined to provide the information, which was formally requested — for the second time — in a letter signed by 23 GOP senators on Wednesday. Signatories included Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.), Minority Whip John Cornyn (R., Texas), and every GOP member of the Armed Services Committee. “Your refusal to respond to this reasonable request suggests either a lack of respect for the Senate’s responsibility to advise and consent or that you are for some reason unwilling to allow this financial disclosure to come to light,” the letter states.
GOP Senate aides say they are not sure why Levin decided to postpone the vote, but suspect that Hagel’s nomination could be in jeopardy. “The only plausible reason they delayed the vote is because they didn’t have enough votes to confirm him,” an aide close to the committee told National Review Online. Some Republicans are said to be considering a hold on Hagel’s nomination unless their request for information is satisfied.
“We’re not asking for anything that hasn’t been asked for in the past,” says another GOP aide. “Hagel is really hiding the ball here. Hillary Clinton, even Bill Clinton, turned over speeches [when the former was nominated for secretary of state]. They didn’t have anything to hide.”
Before Levin’s decision to postpone the vote, Hagel’s confirmation was all but assured, as Democrats appeared to have enough votes to surpass a 60-vote threshold in the event the GOP opted to filibuster the nomination. Now, there is reason to believe Hagel could be in trouble.
Multiple sources raised the possibility that the materials Republicans are seeking contain “explosive details” that could prove devastating to Hagel’s prospects for confirmation. Some Hagel opponents strongly suspect he has delivered speeches at events hosted by organizations most Americans would find “unsavory.”
“If that’s the case, a lot of people are going to reconsider their desire to confirm him,” a GOP source says of Hagel. “He didn’t exactly make the best case for his nomination during his hearing. He’s already given people every reason in the world to vote against him.”
“Chuck Hagel’s lack of transparency and refusal to provide full documentation about his various speech raises very serious questions,” says Ryan Williams, spokesman for Americans for a Strong Defense. “Every senator, Democrat or Republican, who is either for or against his nomination, should demand answers because his silence is creating the perception that he has something to hide.”
During a recess of Hagel’s confirmation hearing last week, Senator Ted Cruz (R., Texas) suggested he may put a hold on Hagel’s nomination until information about the former senator’s speaking arrangements has been adequately disclosed. Senator Mike Lee (R., Utah) on Thursday announced his opposition to the nomination, citing Hagel’s “failure to comply with transparency requirements.”
It could also be that Democrats are increasingly hesitant to support Hagel after such a poor showing at his confirmation hearing. Several aides note that as Armed Services chairman, Levin has sole authority over the committee schedule. He is also up for reelection in 2014, and has raised just $13,000 in the last three months of 2012.
One aide suggests that electoral concerns could explain Levin’s decision to delay a vote on Hagel’s nomination until more information comes to light. If troubling details were to come to light after Levin chose to rush through Hagel’s nomination at the committee level, the political consequences could be “devastating.”