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The Senate Armed Services Committee voted 14-11 along party lines on Tuesday to advance Hagel’s nomination to succeed Leon Panetta as the civilian leader at the Pentagon.
During that meeting, some Hagel opponents, including James Inhofe, the top Republican on the committee, questioned Hagel’s character, accusing him of being “cozy” with Iran or receiving compensation from foreign entities, drawing rebukes from Democrats and even other Republicans.
Others said Hagel had not been forthcoming and demanded more information about his finances and past speeches.
Levin rejected those concerns, saying some panel members were setting standards for Hagel that were far beyond what had been demanded of other nominees.
Hagel’s nomination also got caught up in the continuing fight over the release of information about the September attack on U.S. facilities in Benghazi, Libya. Some Republicans threatened to block Hagel’s confirmation if the administration would not release more information.
Republicans insisted they were not technically resorting to an unprecedented filibuster, saying they were just asking for more time to get more information.
“There’s nothing unusual about this,” Inhofe said on the Senate floor.
“I don’t want to string this out. I have places to go other than hanging around here. I’d vote tonight if we could just get the information that has been requested by the Republican members of the Senate Armed Services Committee,” he said.
The confirmation of another of Obama’s national security nominees, John Brennan, his proposed CIA director, is also facing a potential delay amid jockeying between the White House and members of Congress.
Congressional sources said on Wednesday the Senate Intelligence Committee was likely to delay until the last week of February a vote on Brennan’s confirmation. Democrats and Republicans are using the timing of the vote to pressure the White House to release sensitive papers.