Can Republicans delay the confirmation of Chuck Hagel — at least long enough to force the White House to provide more information on Barack Obama’s actions on the night of the Benghazi attack, along with more transparency on Hagel’s speeches over the last few years? Senator Roy Blunt (R-MO) says yes, and that eventually the Senate will get the information that it seeks:
The GOP, which controls 45 votes in the Senate, would need 41 votes to block former Sen. Hagel from hitting the 60-vote threshold that some Republicans have threatened.
“I don’t think we’ll move forward for a few days on that,” Blunt said at POLITICO’s post-State of the Union event. “And there’s been requests for more information. I think ultimately Senator Hagel will provide that information.”
In particular, Republicans on the Armed Services Committee have asked for more detailed financial disclosures from Hagel – a demand dismissed by Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.), the committee’s chairman.
That’s not the only area in which Republicans want more disclosure. Lindsey Graham threatened holds on both Hagel and John Brennan in order to force the White House to answer questions that arose in last week’s hearings on the Benghazi terrorist attack. Leon Panetta testified publicly that neither Obama nor anyone at the White House bothered to check back with him after his initial briefing on the matter, and no one knows whether Obama attempted to intervene with the Libyan government to free up US resources that were being detained at the airport. The last leverage the Senate has on those questions are the Brennan and Hagel confirmations, and that may have convinced enough Republicans to sign onto a delaying tactic that will not amount to a full filibuster on a final confirmation vote.
Jen Rubin thinks that John McCain might have left the door open to that strategy:
The big news, though, was largely missed by casual observers: Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) left the door open, ever so slightly but nevertheless deliberately, to hold up Hagel’s nomination:
The key portion of McCain’s remarks was this: “I’m somewhat disturbed to hear that today there’s two more speeches that [Hagel] had not reported, that maybe just surfaced. And yet at the same time I believe he has complied. I do not believe that we should move forward with his nomination until questions are answered that Senator Graham and Senator Ayotte and I have asked to be answered.”
That last reference is to a letter he and Sens. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) sent to the president today, asking a single question: “During the eight hours the U.S. mission was under attack, did you personally speak with any officials in the Libyan government to request assistance for our American personnel?”
McCain and other senators understand this is effectively the last opportunity to wrangle information out of the White House on Benghazi. Once Hagel is confirmed, the administration will have no reason to cooperate with congressional oversight committees at all. Holding up the final floor vote on Hagel is the only arrow left in their quiver.
And later, it became clear that Hagel had not disclosed all of his speeches, as he supposedly asserted:
An aide to a senior Republican senator has told Right Turn that there are some 12 speeches over 5 years that Chuck Hagel did not disclose to the committee, including one to the Arab-American Discrimination Committee Convention in 2008. In one speech before the Israel Policy forum, Hagel proclaimed:” The Syrian-Israeli peace is a logical next piece in how this plays out. It’s a logical next piece.”
He also gave one of the most full-throated defenses of “linkage” we’ve heard[.]
And even Hagel’s supporters acknowledge that his confirmation has so far been a disater:
Washington Rep. Adam Smith, the top Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee, said at POLITICO’s event that Hagel has a “significant challenge” ahead to build his credibility both at the Pentagon and on Capitol Hill, particularly following Hagel’s rocky confirmation hearing last month.
“It hurt,” Smith said of Hagel’s performance. “I can’t lie about that. it was not generally a very good performance. I don’t think it’s totally reflective of the man; [he] obviously, has a very distinguished career both in the military and the government.”
Perhaps a delay will allow for a wiser choice to replace Hagel.
Update: Politico asked McCain whether he will vote to allow Hagel’s confirmation to come to the floor — and gets a different answer than McCain was offering last week:
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) is backing away from his no-filibuster stance on the nomination of Chuck Hagel as defense secretary.
After saying just days ago that Senate Republicans shouldn’t filibuster Hagel’s nod, McCain now says he hasn’t made up his mind about whether he would vote to end debate and allow a floor vote on the former Nebraska senator’s confirmation.
McCain is now waiting to see whether the White House will respond to a letter requesting more information about Obama’s “actions and orders” the night of the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi.
“We are hoping to get an answer to a simple question,” McCain told POLITICO.
That’s a bad sign for Hagel and the White House. If McCain switches to the filibuster, they won’t get either of these confirmations through the Senate.