The confirmation of former Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-NE) as President Barack Obama’s new Secretary of Defense has hit new snags, according to a story broken by Foreign Policy on Tuesday evening, including an allegation of sexual harassment among staff in Hagel’s Senate office. Hagel also failed to meet a 5 p.m. Monday deadline to submit new documents, including past speeches and records of payments from foreign entities.
According to the story by Josh Rogin, Republicans are refusing to allow the Senate Armed Services Committee to vote on Hagel’s confirmation until the outstanding issues are resolved. The chair, Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI), had said that a vote could come as early as Thursday, but that deadline is now in doubt. Meanwhile, Republicans continue efforts to muster enough votes to defeat Hagel’s confirmation on the Senate floor.
The sexual harassment allegation may not have been known to Hagel at the time. However, sexual harassment is a pressing issue in the Department of Defense, and the military is making strenuous efforts to deal with it as it begins to integrate women into front-line combat units. In a letter to Sen. Barbara Boxer on Jan. 14, Hagel pledged to support “full implementation of all recent policies and procedures announced by Secretary [of Defense Leon] Panetta to combat sexual assault in the military.”
Hagel had only provided the committee with information about four of his past speeches prior to his confirmation hearing last week, though by his own admission he had given “hundreds,” some of which were private. Hagel’s failure to meet the deadline to submit all relevant documents and financial disclosures will likely delay a vote for days, at least.
Yesterday, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) urged President Obama to withdraw Hagel’s nomination. Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), who questioned Hagel vigorously during the hearing, has said that he opposes an attempt to filibuster the nomination. However, it is possible that Hagel could lose a floor vote if uncommitted Democrats break away from their party to oppose him, or if the new controversies cause some to withdraw support.
Meanwhile, opposition to Hagel’s confirmation is growing more vocal. The Chicago Tribune printed an editorial today entitled, “Find another leader for the Pentagon,” declaring that Hagel “should be in some other job.” A poll provided to the committee and published by Breitbart News today indicates that likely voters provided with arguments both for and against Hagel swung strongly against the former Nebraska Senator.