Levin: Hagel demands unprecedented

Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin (D-Mich.) said the demands for information Republicans are making of former Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.) were unprecedented for a Defense nominee.

Levin said Thursday that a committee vote on Hagel would proceed “as soon as possible,” and that the request for financial information from groups Hagel is affiliated with would not slow the process.

The requests are “things no prior candidate has ever been asked for, way beyond what the rules of the committee are,” Levin told reporters. “He has provided all of the financial information that was required.”

Twenty-five Republicans, including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), sent Hagel a letter Tuesday saying they were opposed to a vote on his confirmation as Defense secretary until he provided additional financial information.

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The Republicans want to know whether the organizations with which Hagel is affiliated, such as the Atlantic Council, received foreign funding over the past decade.

Levin said he would respond to Republican senators with a letter of his own in the next few days before planning a vote.

“When we have responded to the letter we are then going to take it from there, and have a vote as soon as possible,” Levin said. “I’m first going to respond to the letter, lay out the rules of the committee, what we’ve required of nominees and how far beyond — way beyond — what’s been required of nominees [this is].

“We’re going to continue to apply standards that this committee has used over decades,” Levin said.

The Armed Services chairman had said he wanted to hold a vote Thursday on Hagel’s confirmation, but decided to wait because of the GOP opposition. If Republicans remain unsatisfied with the information from Hagel, a vote is still coming, Levin said.

“We can’t not vote because of dissatisfaction,” he said.

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said that without the information from Hagel, he would have “a hard time” proceeding forward with the confirmation.

“Sen. Levin can say that some of this is out of bounds, and he may be right, some of this may be unprecedented. But this is a sort of an unprecedented nominee,” Graham said.

Asked why this information was being asked of Hagel and not prior nominees, Graham said: “I don’t think we’ve had previous nominees with this sort of, kind of, hostile attitude toward a friend like Israel.

“I think what we’re all looking for is, did Sen. Hagel get on the speaking circuit to [speak to] anti-Israeli groups?” Graham said. “What kind of things did he say about Israel and other potential allies?”

Levin said that the he wasn’t surprised by the tactics being used by Republicans — including the committee’s ranking member, Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) — who have vowed to defeat Hagel’s nomination.

“The ranking member said he’ll do everything he can to stop the nomination, so I take this as one of the things he’s doing to try to stop the nomination,” Levin said.

But Inhofe said that he thought the requests were “appropriate.”

“I feel that something good has happened in that we’re not going to try to rush this thing through and have a vote right away,” Inhofe said. “I don’t agree that it’s not an appropriate thing to ask for and demand. I think it is.”

The GOP letter was spearheaded by freshman Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), who has said he would oppose Hagel’s confirmation.

Asked Thursday whether he would filibuster or place a hold on Hagel’s confirmation if he doesn’t get the information requested, Cruz would not say.

“I think the letter speaks for itself,” he said.

Levin did not say when a committee vote would be held on Hagel’s confirmation, but said he remained confident that Hagel would be confirmed by the full Senate.

So far, only two Republican senators have said they will support Hagel's nomination.