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GOP Holds on Hagel Likely After Committee Vote

Chris Maddaloni/CQ Roll Call
Hagel’s nomination has sharply divided lawmakers.

The Senate panel overseeing Pentagon nominations plans to vote Tuesday on the contentious nomination of Chuck Hagel to be Defense secretary. And while the committee may vote along party lines to recommend confirmation, some Republicans are expected to delay action on the Senate floor.

Armed Services Chairman Carl Levin, D-Mich., plans to hold a vote shortly after convening the executive meeting at 2:30 p.m., following a week of elevated threats from GOP lawmakers who are opposed to the former Nebraska Republican senator’s nomination.

But the meeting, according to senior congressional officials, was scheduled with the support of ranking Republican James M. Inhofe of Oklahoma.

Indeed, a senior GOP aide said some members of the panel who expressed displeasure that a vote might be scheduled before all their requests for information were met appear to have gotten caught up in errant news reports that Levin would try to ramrod a vote on Hagel. Some of this may reflect an ignorance of the panel’s long-held processes, the aide said.

“I have full confidence in the committee’s rigorous process for vetting nominees, which has been developed and relied upon for decades by members of both parties,” John McCain of Arizona, a senior member of the Armed Services panel, said Monday in a written statement, adding that he was troubled by Hagel’s testimony.

“This process ensures a comprehensive and thorough examination of every aspect of a nominee’s history, including but not limited to personal and public records, tax returns, potential conflicts of interest and an FBI background check, all carried out by highly experienced professionals from both parties.”

GOP aides also said suggestions that the panel had suddenly taken a turn toward partisanship are erroneous.

“People were upset at the process and rumors about what was going to happen,” one senior GOP aide said. “It didn’t pan out. Nothing could have been further from the truth.”

No Walkout Planned

Inhofe and Levin spoke Monday morning and agreed on a time. Senior congressional aides noted that Republicans had a strong desire to hold a meeting specific to the Hagel nomination vote so that members would have an opportunity to voice their concerns instead of voting during an unrelated hearing.

Aides said Inhofe had every intention of attending the Hagel meeting and, despite rumors that some Republican members might want to walk out of the session in protest, he isn’t encouraging such behavior.

“The ranking member is not going to walk out,” a congressional aide said. “It is not what he is calling for and not what he is encouraging.”

McCain, the former ranking member, also refused to take part in a walkout.

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