By Jeremy Herb
A vote on former Sen. Chuck Hagel’s (R-Neb.) confirmation in the Senate Armed Services Committee has been delayed after Republicans demanded more information from the nominee on his paid speeches and financial disclosures.
Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin (D-Mich.) had hoped to hold the committee vote on President Obama’s Defense secretary on Thursday, but 25 GOP senators — including all of the 12 Republicans on the committee — sent Hagel a letter saying they opposed a vote until he provided the information they were calling for.
“The committee’s vote on Senator Hagel’s nomination has not been scheduled,” Levin said in a statement. “I had hoped to hold a vote on the nomination this week, but the committee’s review of the nomination is not yet complete. I intend to schedule a vote on the nomination as soon as possible.”
The delayed committee vote throws up a new roadblock in Hagel’s confirmation, which was still on solid ground after a shaky confirmation hearing, because several Republicans said they would not support a filibuster and no Democrats abandoned him.
Republican senators are calling for Hagel to provide documentation of all his paid speeches in the last five years, as well as additional financial disclosures for organizations he’s affiliated with, such as the Atlantic Council, where he is chairman, and McCarthy Capital.
For most of Wednesday, the vote was up in the air, as the committee’s aides sought to address Republican lawmakers’ concerns about Hagel’s disclosures.
But the letter from Republicans requesting additional information from Hagel may have sealed a delay in the vote.
The letter does not focus on the questions about paid speeches that were raised during Hagel’s confirmation hearing, but over whether the organizations Hagel is affiliated with had received foreign funding.
“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 senators wrote in the letter obtained by The Hill.
It did not appear that Hagel was planning to provide any more documents to the committee, however.
Hagel sent a letter to the Republican senators on Tuesday that said he had “made every effort” to meet the committee’s disclosure requirements.
In the letter, obtained by The Hill, Hagel said he provided all available prepared texts and transcripts of his paid speeches. He said many were conducted off the record and were not recorded, including a list of those speeches.
“I did not prepare a written text for any of those engagements,” Hagel said.
Hagel also said that he was unable to provide requested financial information for the Atlantic Council and other groups. He said that as a board member, the financial documents were not his to disclose, though he directed senators to look at the organization’s IRS returns.
An official working on Hagel’s confirmation said he had “conducted an exhaustive search for all of his speaking engagements over the past five years, as the committee requested.”
If Levin had decided to move forward with the vote on Hagel’s confirmation Thursday, there wasn’t much that Republican senators could do to stop him. But that could have made it more likely for Republicans to place a hold on Hagel's nomination or filibuster it once the nomination heads to the floor.
“Once it’s out of committee, there’s all kinds of ways of doing it to make the demands of things we were not able to get during the committee process,” said Armed Services ranking member Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.).
A Democratic source involved in the process said that the request for additional documentation was a “political last-ditch effort to try to derail a nomination that’s going to get through.”
The push to get more information from Hagel is being led by Republican senators who have already said they are voting against the former Nebraska senator.
Inhofe and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), who have both said they will oppose Hagel’s confirmation, complained about the insufficient documentation that Hagel provided with his speeches at his confirmation hearing last week.
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), the committee’s former ranking member, told reporters that he wasn’t pushing for a delay in the vote.
“I just want the questions answered,” said McCain, who declined to say how he would vote on Hagel.
McCain has also said he is opposed to filibustering Hagel’s nomination on the Senate floor. A McCain aide shot down a press report that suggested McCain was reconsidering his filibuster position in light of the unanswered questions surrounding his speeches and financial disclosures.
“His position on filibuster is unchanged,” the aide told The Hill.
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said he was waiting to get requested information from Hagel, but also declined to say that he would support a filibuster.
“I don’t know yet,” Graham told reporters. “I don’t think we should filibuster unless there’s extraordinary circumstances.”