Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., said he will not support efforts by Republican members of the Senate Armed Services Committee to delay a vote on the nomination of former Sen. Chuck Hagel to be defense secretary.
Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-SC, who has emerged as the most vocal opponent of Hagel getting the top Pentagon job, said he would put the process on hold until he gets more information about the terrorist attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi.
McCain and Graham were equally tough on Hagel during the nomination hearing on Jan. 31, but McCain cannot support blocking President Obama from getting his choice for defense secretary. While he shares many of the concerns voiced by Graham and others about Hagel’s positions on national security issues, he said Hagel has met the committee’s requirements and deserves a vote.
“I will not participate in any walkout of tomorrow’s committee vote,” he said in a statement. A walkout would be disrespectful to Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., the committee’s chairman, and be “at odds with the best traditions of the Senate Armed Services Committee,” he said.
Graham’s threat to hold off on the process for more information about the Benghazi attack, in which the U.S. ambassador to Libya died, is only the latest move by GOP senators to thwart Hagel’s nomination. Some have demanded he turn over copies of speeches he has made in recent years and provide information on contributions from foreign donors to groups with which he has been affiliated.
Hagel’s supporters say he has already provided the committee with all the information typically required of nominees, an argument essentially backed by McCain in his statement.
Levin rejected those GOP efforts and called for a Tuesday vote. Currently, Democrats hold a 14-12 edge on the armed services committee, making it likely Hagel will win approval on a party-line vote before sending the nomination to the full Senate for approval or rejection.
“Look the bottom line is we have 66,000 troops serving in Afghanistan and Iraq — sorry, in Afghanistan rather, and significant issues to deal with internationally. It is clear that Senator Hagel is uniquely qualified to be Secretary of Defense, and it is clear that he has at least a substantial — a majority of senators who would vote to confirm him,” said White House spokesman Jay Carney, who reacted to threats by Graham and others to stall Hagel’s nomination.
He also said the Senate already has all the answers available on the Benghazi attack.
“What is unfortunate here is the continuing attempt to politicize an issue,” Carney said. “In this case, through nominees that themselves had nothing to do with Benghazi, and to do so in a way that only does harm to our national security interests.”