WASHINGTON — Get ready for an end-of-the-week Senate showdown over Chuck Hagel’s nomination as the nation’s next defense secretary.
Republicans are pushing to delay full Senate consideration of the former GOP senator from Nebraska. Some seek to hold up the nomination to secure more information about last year’s attacks on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi. Others continue to demand more information about Hagel’s personal finances and past speeches.
But Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., pressed on, filing paperwork Wednesday to force a vote before the Senate takes a weeklong recess.
“This is the first time in the history of our country a presidential nominee for secretary of defense has been filibustered. What a shame, but that’s the way it is,” Reid said on the Senate floor.
Republicans objected to Reid’s characterization.
Sen. James Inhofe of Oklahoma, the top Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, said Republicans would consent to a vote quickly if provided the information they seek.
“This is not a filibuster,” Inhofe said.
Regardless of what the tactic is called, Republican objections mean Hagel’s nomination must clear a procedural vote with the backing of at least 60 senators. That vote is expected Friday. If Hagel clears that hurdle, he will need only 50 votes to ensure his confirmation.
Hagel appeared close to the 60-vote threshold Wednesday, given the expected support of all 55 senators who caucus with the Democrats and the backing of two Republicans — Sens. Mike Johanns of Nebraska and Thad Cochran of Mississippi.
Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, announced Wednesday that she would support Hagel on the procedural vote, regardless of her opposition to his selection.
That leaves Democrats in need of only two more votes.
Some Republicans, including Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, have said that before voting on Hagel they want more information on the Sept. 11, 2012, attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi that killed four Americans, including the ambassador to Libya.
Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, said Wednesday that he would support delaying Hagel’s vote to get more information on Benghazi, although he has taken no position on the nomination itself.
The White House has criticized linking Hagel’s consideration to the Benghazi attacks, and White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said the administration expects the Senate to move quickly.
“We know with 100 percent confidence that there is majority support for Sen. Hagel’s nomination — majority and then some,” Carney said. “So we ask Congress, the Senate, to move quickly to confirm him as secretary of defense.”
Other Republicans have pressed for more information on Hagel’s finances going back five years and for the sources of funding for various businesses and organizations with which he has ties.
When the Armed Services Committee met Tuesday to consider Hagel’s nomination, Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, raised the question of whether Hagel could have received compensation from foreign governments.
Democrats have said the GOP financial information requests go far beyond anything required of previous nominees and insisted that Hagel not be held to a different standard. They also took issue with Cruz’s comments.
Armed Services Chairman Carl Levin, D-Mich., noted that he and Inhofe had reviewed a thorough FBI background check on Hagel. “The innuendo that Sen. Hagel could somehow be hiding the fact that he’s on the payroll of a foreign power is offensive to those of us who have served with him and is beneath the dignity of the United States Senate,” Levin said.
But Grassley said Hillary Clinton turned over a list of all contributors to her husband’s foundation when she was nominated to be Secretary of State.
“So there’s precedent for getting that information,” he said.
Sen. Deb Fischer, R-Neb., opposes Hagel’s nomination.
Fischer said Wednesday that she hadn’t made up her mind on this week’s procedural vote. She had said previously that she had no plans to filibuster Hagel.
Fischer expressed sympathy for those seeking the information and downplayed the harm of waiting a while longer.
“A delay until they get their information — that’s reasonable,” Fischer said.
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