NEW YORK – Nominee Chuck Hagel will yet be confirmed as secretary of defense, Democrats in the Senate insisted over the weekend.
The nomination of the former Republican senator from Nebraska has been a source of contention for weeks, with Republican senators and many interest groups expressing vociferous opposition to the appointment.
The confirmation has been held up in recent days in the Senate Armed Services Committee by demands from Republican members that Hagel disclose the sources of his income in recent years, including detailing foreign investment in seven companies with which he has had dealings, and the funders of the Atlantic Council where he serves as chairman of the board.
At Hagel’s request, the Atlantic Council released on Friday a list of foreign donor governments and companies. The list included the governments of Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, and others. But the group’s CEO Frederick Kempe noted that Hagel served as the Council’s chairman “on a pro bono basis.”
In his own letter on Friday, the Armed Services Committee’s Democratic chairman, Sen. Carl Levin, decried the Republican demand for further information, saying it set a double standard.
“The committee cannot have two different sets of financial disclosure standards for nominees, one for Sen. Hagel and one for other nominees,” Levin wrote in a letter to the committee’s ranking Republican, Jim Inhofe of Nebraska.
Hagel was also unlikely to possess the information requested by the committee’s Republicans, Levin wrote. “I am doubtful that, as mere adviser to these companies, Senator Hagel has either access to the corporate financial information that is sought in the February 6 letter or the authority to release such information if he were able to get access to it.”
Hagel had already given the committee “all the financial information the rules of the committee require,” Levin insisted.
On Thursday, Levin had insisted that Republican demands for financial information would not delay a committee vote on Hagel’s nomination indefinitely. “We can’t not vote because there’s dissatisfaction,” he said. “That would be endless.”
A vote is likely to take place in the coming week, sending the confirmation to the Senate floor. If Democrats hold their ground for the president’s choice, Hagel’s confirmation appears all but inevitable. Democrats outnumber Republicans on the committee 14-12, and in the Senate 55-45. While 15 Republicans have announced their intention to vote against Hagel’s confirmation, 19 senators, including two Republicans, have declared they will support it, while several others have said they will not support a filibuster.
While it’s hard to see Hagel failing to get the needed votes, and President Barack Obama has vowed to fight for his confirmation, speculation continues as to the possibility that Hagel will either withdraw or be dropped by the White House.
“He has the votes, but not much else,” noted Foreign Policy’s Thomas Ricks. “His big problem is that no one much wants him running the Pentagon. Congressional Republicans consider him a traitor. Congressional Democrats see him as anti-gay and anti-abortion, undercutting their support for him. And Northeastern Democrats (and some others) worry about his stance on Israel. Democratic support in the Senate appears more dutiful than passionate.”