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U.S. Senate committee may delay vote on Hagel confirmation

Source: Thomson Reuters Foundation - Wed, 6 Feb 2013 21:23 GMT
Author: Reuters
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* Armed Services panel still hoping for vote on Thursday

* Last-ditch Republican concerns include finances, speeches

By Patricia Zengerle

WASHINGTON, Feb 6 (Reuters) - The top Republican on the Senate Armed Services committee said on Wednesday the panel's vote on Chuck Hagel's confirmation as President Barack Obama's next Pentagon chief has not been scheduled because some in his party want more information.

Senator Carl Levin, the committee's Democratic chairman, had said after Hagel's contentious confirmation hearing last week that he hoped the panel would vote on Thursday.

Senator James Inhofe, the senior Republican on the panel, said Republicans wanted more information on issues including Hagel's finances.

"There's information I know that people are seeking right now. I've talked to Chairman Levin and we haven't decided yet exactly what we're going to be doing with that hearing," Inhofe told a news conference on the defense budget.

A Democratic aide said some members had raised concerns, and Levin was trying to address them on Wednesday so the vote could be held at a meeting scheduled for 10 a.m. ET (1500 GMT) on Thursday.

Some Republicans have also demanded the texts of speeches by Hagel, which the former senator said he delivered extemporaneously. Some Republicans have also said they were awaiting results of a 2007 sexual harassment claim against a former member of Hagel's staff by another member of his staff, Foreign Policy reported.

Democrats reject the Republicans' objections as a last-ditch effort to convince Obama to withdraw Hagel's nomination, which is not likely.

Hagel, a former Republican senator, faced a barrage of often heated questions about his record from fellow Republicans last week when he appeared before the Armed Services Committee, which must approve his nomination before it faces a vote in the full Senate.

DEMOCRATIC SUPPORT SEEN SOLID

Some of his most committed opponents had hoped a few Democrats could be persuaded to vote against Hagel, mainly due to questions his critics have raised over whether he is sufficiently supportive of Israel and tough on Iran.

But no Democrat has come out against Hagel and he is expected to be confirmed.

All 14 Democrats on the 26-member committee - and possibly some Republicans - are expected to back Hagel, as are all 53 Democrats, two independents and a handful of Republicans when he is considered by the full 100-member Senate.

Two Republicans - Mike Johanns of Nebraska, who holds Hagel's old seat, and Thad Cochran of Mississippi, have already said they support Hagel. And more than enough senators have said they would not support procedural maneuvers to block the nomination.

Inhofe said even before Hagel's hearing that he opposed the nomination.

He acknowledged that he cannot stop a vote by the committee, but said Republicans concerned about Hagel's nomination believe they can prevent a quick confirmation in the full Senate.

"I look for people to slow this train down, and let's get everything we need. And that's what I want to do," Inhofe told reporters after the news conference.

"Once it's out of committee, then there are all kinds of ways of doing it, to make the demands of things that we were not able to get during the committee process," he said. "I'm not talking about how we're going to do it. We're just going to do it," he said. (Editing by Jackie Frank)

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