Dems press ahead in effort to win Hagel confirmation -
Published Tuesday, February 12, 2013 at 12:00 am / Updated at 6:43 am
Dems press ahead in effort to win Hagel confirmation

WASHINGTON — After a rough ride, Chuck Hagel's nomination as defense secretary is entering the home stretch.

Critics have handed the former Republican senator from Nebraska a rhetorical bludgeoning since President Barack Obama tapped him last month to succeed the retiring Leon Panetta.

And some Senate Republicans indicated recently that they would dig in their heels, threatening to block or delay the nomination's progress unless they get additional information.

Photos: Chuck Hagel through the years
See more photos of Hagel, from Nebraska youngster to national statesman.

But Senate Democrats are pushing ahead, with the Armed Services Committee setting a vote on Hagel's bid this afternoon and a full Senate vote expected yet this week.

Here's what you need to know heading into today's vote:

Q: Why is confirmation this week so important to Hagel?
A: Next week is a recess period for the Senate. So if Hagel is not confirmed before lawmakers leave town on Friday, he will not receive a full Senate vote until the end of the month. In the meantime, he would continue to dangle like a piñata with plenty of his opponents holding bats. Senate Democrats in swing states might get an earful from constituents upset with the nomination at home. And it would mean more time for the White House to consider whether Hagel is worth the bitter fight.

Q: What is the information Republicans are looking for?
A: There are two issues — the first is specific to Hagel. A group of 26 Republican senators wrote a letter asking Hagel to reveal the source of any compensation he has received over $5,000 in the past five years, even though he is legally required to hand over only two years' worth. They are also looking for any foreign funding directed to various organizations or businesses he has been involved with over the years. Hagel's supporters and even Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., say he has met the requirements and should not be subjected to a standard different from that faced by past nominees. On another front, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said he will place a “hold” on the nomination unless he gets additional answers from the Obama administration about the attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi that killed four Americans, including Ambassador Chris Stevens. Graham said the White House has refused to respond to his letters on the subject. “This is the way the system works around here. What leverage do you have against a White House who just basically won't respond to anything?”

Q: What can opponents do to block his nomination from moving out of committee?
A: Not much at this point, it appears. The Democrats' advantage on the committee stands at 14-12, so Hagel is expected to advance to the full Senate, even if on a party-line vote. There was talk of a walkout by the panel's GOP members, but that had dissipated by Monday night. White House Press Secretary Jay Carney on Monday criticized the idea of holding up the nomination over an unrelated matter such as Benghazi. “The bottom line is we have 66,000 troops serving in Afghanistan and ... significant issues to deal with internationally. We need to move forward with this nomination and make sure we have a secretary of defense.”

Q: So Hagel is still likely to get confirmed?
A: Yes. Even if Graham or others place holds on Hagel's nomination, the holds can be broken with 60 votes. Democrats hold a 55-45 edge in the Senate, and at least a half-dozen GOP members have indicated that they support Hagel's getting an up-or-down vote. McCain delivered that message Monday night when he met with fellow Republican members of the committee. “I'm encouraging my colleagues that if they want to vote against Sen. Hagel, that's one thing and that's a principled stand,” McCain told reporters. “We do not want to filibuster. We have not filibustered a Cabinet appointee in the past. ... We should move forward with his nomination and bring it to the floor and vote up or down.”

Q: What will the Nebraskans do in committee, on the floor?
A: Sens. Mike Johanns and Deb Fischer, both Republicans, have come down on different sides of the nomination. Johanns is one of two Senate Republicans supporting Hagel — the other is Thad Cochran of Mississippi. Neither is on the Armed Services Committee. Fischer is. She plans to vote against Hagel. She told The World-Herald on Monday night that the Republicans seeking further information will have a chance to express themselves today. “My mind's made up with the information that I requested, the areas that I was concerned about and Sen. Hagel's answers to those questions,” Fischer said, noting that even Democrats have criticized Hagel's performance at his confirmation hearing.

Contact the writer: 202-630-4823,,

Contact the writer: Joseph Morton    |  

Joe is The World-Herald's Washington, D.C., bureau, covering national political developments that matter most to Midlanders.

Sioux City riverboat casino prepares to close, still hoping to be saved
Omaha high schoolers to help canvass for Heartland 2050
Mizzou alumni aim to attract veterinary students to Henry Doorly Zoo
Grant ensures that Sioux City can start building children's museum
Party looks to 'nudge' women into public office in Iowa
For birthday, Brownell-Talbot student opts to give, not get
Sole big donor to Beau McCoy says he expects nothing in return
Two taken to hospital after fire at Benson home
Grace: Pipe organ concert a tribute to couple's enduring love
Omaha-area jails and ERs new front line in battling mental illness
Convicted killer Nikko Jenkins might await his sentence in prison
Kelly: 70 years after a deadly D-Day rehearsal, Omahan, WWII vet will return to Europe
Civil rights hearing to consider voting policies in Midwest
Firefighters battle brush fire near Fontenelle Forest
17 senators in Nebraska Legislature hit their (term) limits
It's a pursuit of pastel at Spring Lake Park's Easter egg hunt
Financial picture improving for city-owned Mid-America Center
No injuries after fire at midtown's old Mercer Mansion
29-year-old Omahan arrested for 22nd time in Lincoln
Police: Slaying of woman in Ralston apartment likely over drugs
Explosion near 29th, Woolworth damages vehicles
Omaha police arrest man, 19, accused in March shooting
Earth gets its day in the sun at Elmwood Park
Beau McCoy strikes Obama doll in TV ad; Democrats are not happy
Keystone XL pipeline backers blast 'political expediency' as foes hail ruling to delay decision
< >
Kelly: 70 years after a deadly D-Day rehearsal, Omahan, WWII vet will return to Europe
A World War II veteran from Omaha will return this week to Europe to commemorate a tragedy in the run-up to D-Day.
Dickson’s Week in Review, April 13-19
On Twitter some guy tweeted that the spring game isn’t taken as seriously as a regular-season contest. What was your first clue? When the head coach entered waving a cat aloft?
Kelly: A California university president returns to her Nebraska roots on Ivy Day
The main speaker at today's Ivy Day celebration at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln is a college president who grew up roping calves and earned her Ph.D. at the prestigious Oxford University in England.
Breaking Brad: Stuck in a claw machine? You get no Easter candy
I know of one kid in Lincoln who will be receiving a lump of coal from the Easter Bunny, just as soon as he's extricated from that bowling alley claw machine.
Breaking Brad: Mountain lion season's over, but the bunny's fair game!
Thursday was the last day of a Nebraska Legislature session. Before leaving town, legislators passed a bill to hold a lottery to hunt the Easter Bunny.
Deadline Deal thumbnail
The Jaipur in Rockbrook Village
Half Off Fine Indian Cuisine & Drinks! $15 for Dinner, or $7 for Lunch
Buy Now
< >
Omaha World-Herald Contests
Enter for a chance to win great prizes.
OWH Store: Buy photos, books and articles
Buy photos, books and articles
Travel Snaps Photo
Going on Vacation? Take the Omaha World-Herald with you and you could the next Travel Snaps winner.
Click here to donate to Goodfellows
The 2011 Goodfellows fund drive provided holiday meals to nearly 5,000 families and their children, and raised more than $500,000 to help families in crisis year round.
Want to get World-Herald stories sent directly to your home or work computer? Sign up for's News Alerts and you will receive e-mails with the day's top stories.
Can't find what you need? Click here for site map »