News Column

White House: Hagel Senate Nod Almost Firm

Feb. 12, 2013
Chuck Hagel
Chuck Hagel

Chuck Hagel will almost surely win Senate confirmation as the U.S. defense secretary, the White House said ahead of a committee vote on his nomination Tuesday.

"We believe firmly that Senator Hagel will be confirmed as the next secretary of defense," White House spokesman Jay Carney said of the former senator from Nebraska ahead of a Senate Armed Services Committee vote after public discussion, starting at 2:30 p.m. EST.

Hagel, 66, faced sharp and sometimes angry questioning from fellow Republicans, especially former ally Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., at his confirmation hearing Jan. 31.

McCain and Hagel are both decorated Vietnam veterans and Hagel was co-chairman of McCain's 2000 presidential campaign.

The confirmation hearing focused on past Hagel statements about Iran, the influence of pro-Israel organizations in Washington and the Iraq war, whose surge Hagel did not support.

"Since his hearing, we have seen an increase in the number of senators who have come out and said that they will vote to confirm him," Carney said. "That includes Republicans as well as Democrats. And we look forward to his hearing and to a vote on the floor."

The full Senate vote could come as early as Wednesday, said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev.

Last week, 25 Republican senators sent committee Chairman Carl Levin, D-Mich., a letter demanding Hagel turn over more financial information before they would consider a vote.

They said they wanted to know if he or organizations he has been involved with have received funding from foreign sources.

Levin said in response it would be unprecedented for a nominee to produce more financial information than Hagel already provided.

As action drew closer, Republican opponents, most notably Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., threatened filibusters and even a walkout from the vote unless their evolving demands were met.

The new demands included more information from the White House about the Sept. 11, 2012, attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, and a sexual harassment allegation involving two former staff members but not Hagel himself.

McCain said he would not join any threatened walkout and said the committee had thoroughly vetted Hagel.

"I have examined the information and responses to members' questions that Senator Hagel has provided to the committee, and I believe that he has fulfilled the rigorous requirements that the committee demands of every presidential nominee to be secretary of defense," McCain said in a statement.

"As a result, I believe it is appropriate for the Armed Services Committee to vote on Senator Hagel's nomination and determine whether to move this nomination to the Senate floor where members can debate and express their own judgments on Senator Hagel.

"I will not participate in any walkout of [Tuesday's] committee vote -- an action that would be disrespectful to Chairman Levin and at odds with the best traditions of the Senate Armed Services Committee," McCain said.

Democrats on the armed services panel have 14 votes, while Republicans have 12. Hagel needs a simple majority to be cleared by the committee before a full Senate vote, where the Democratic caucus outnumbers Republicans, 55-45.

Source: Copyright United Press International 2013

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