The Senate Armed Services Committee has postponed a panel vote that was expected to take place Thursday on the nomination of Chuck Hagel to be the next United States secretary of defense.
Chairman of the committee, Carl Levin (D-MI), announced the delay after Republicans demanded that the former GOP senator from Nebraska release additional financial information, including details regarding compensation for speeches he delivered since leaving Capitol Hill.
"The committee's review of the nomination is not yet complete," Levin said in a statement. "I intend to schedule a vote on the nomination as soon as possible."
While Hagel has provided some information on his personal finances, he said he could not provide all of what has been requested because it was the property of private organizations that he was not authorized to disclose.
On Wednesday 26 Republican senators sent a letter to the controversial nominee, asserting their opposition to the vote until he provided the requested information.
"This committee, and the American people, have a right to know if a nominee for secretary of defense has received compensation, directly or indirectly, from foreign sources," the letter said. "Until the committee receives full and complete answers, it cannot in good faith determine whether you should be confirmed as secretary of defense."
Hagel, the two-term senator chosen by President Barack Obama to replace current secretary of defense Leon Panetta, has come under intense fire for his record on Israel, Iran, Hamas, as well as his comments about “the Jewish lobby,” homosexuals and a myriad of other issues.
"I look for people to slow this train down and let's get everything we need. That's what I want to do," said James Inhofe of Oklahoma, the top Republican on the Armed Services Committee.
Republican Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC), who grilled Hagel in the hearings late last month, told reporters he would prefer not to vote on the nomination "until I feel like we have the information we need to make an informed decision."
Graham pressed Hagel about his 2006 interview with Middle East analyst Aaron David Miller in which he said, “the Jewish lobby intimidates a lot of people” in Congress into doing “dumb things.”
“Name one dumb thing we’ve been goaded into doing by the Israeli, Jewish lobby,” Graham demanded.
“I don’t know,” Hagel said, unable to provide names.
He expressed regret for the comments, saying, “I’ve already said I regret referencing the Jewish lobby. I should have said pro-Israel lobby. I think it’s the only time on the record I’ve ever said that.”
He added that he should have said “influence,” not “intimidate.”
“I should not have said ‘dumb’ or ‘stupid’ because I understand, appreciate there are different views in these things,” he maintained.
“Then why did you say it?” Graham asked. “I can’t think of a more provocative thing to say.”
“The statements you made about Palestinians and about ‘the Jewish lobby,’ all that together” sends “the worst possible message to our enemies and friends,” Graham added.