POLITICS

GOP putting the brakes on Chuck Hagel's confirmation for defense secretary

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Politics,Congress,Susan Ferrechio,Campaign 2012,Politics Digest

Republican lawmakers plan to stall former Sen. Chuck Hagel's confirmation process to become the next secretary of defense even as Democrats try to speed along Senate approval of the controversial nominee.

Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin, D-Mich., announced the panel will vote Tuesday afternoon on Hagel's nomination, "after the members have an opportunity for discussion."

Democratic leaders hoped to put Hagel's nomination before the full Senate for a vote later this week.

But his nomination could grind to a halt after Tuesday, according to the panel's top Republican member, Sen. James Inhofe of Oklahoma, and Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., another member of the committee.

Hagel's poor performance at his confirmation hearing earlier this month increased opposition from many Republicans and even left some Democrats wondering whether the former Nebraska lawmaker is the right choice to lead the Defense Department.

The former GOP senator from Nebraska's past comments about Israel have prompted Inhofe to threaten to put a "hold" on the nomination, which would delay a vote on his confirmation.

"Hagel may be passed out of the committee, but it's going to be a long, long time before he hits the floor," Inhofe told National Review Online on Monday. "We're going to need as much time as possible, and there are going to be several of us who will have holds."

Inhofe did not respond to a request for comment from The Washington Examiner.

But in his remarks to National Review, Inhofe cited Hagel's "anti-Israel history" to justify his opposition.

Hagel once made reference to a "Jewish lobby" that intimidates members of Congress. Republicans have accused him of being sympathetic toward Palestinian Authority Arabs and unconcerned about the Iranian nuclear threat toward Israel.

Hagel has made other statements that both Republicans and Democrats found objectionable. During his confirmation hearing, Republicans played a radio interview in which Hagel appeared to agree with a caller who labeled the United States "the world's bully."

Republicans have also requested more information about Hagel's income from paid speeches.

On Sunday, Graham told CBS he may block confirmation of Hagel as well as Obama's nominee for the CIA, John Brennan, until the White House provides more information about the events leading up to and following the attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, that left the ambassador and three others dead.

Brennan's confirmation is less in question, however, because lawmakers overall were satisfied with his confirmation hearing.

Tuesday's committee vote on Hagel will take place just hours before President Obama delivers his State of the Union address.

Hagel is expected to win the panel's approval because it is stacked to the advantage of Democrats, who hold the Senate majority.

GOP aides said some Republicans on the panel may walk out of the committee vote in protest.

Republican aides said they believe Hagel will ultimately get a vote before the Senate without a filibuster, in part because the GOP controls only 45 votes and would need 41 to agree to block the nomination using that parliamentary tactic. Five in the GOP have already either committed to voting for Hagel or said they would oppose a filibuster.

sferrechio@washingtonexaminer.com

sferrechio@washingtonexaminer.com

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