Gloves Off: Cruz Versus Levin, Nelson over Hagel

Gloves Off: Cruz Versus Levin, Nelson over Hagel

In today’s debate in the Senate Armed Services Committee over the confirmation of former Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-NE), Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) engaged in heated debate with committee chair Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI) over the question of whether Hagel had complied with the committee’s questions and standards on financial disclosure.

Cruz argued that Hagel had flatly refused to answer a question posed to him by several Senators about all significant compensation he had received over the previous five years. Levin replied that the committee’s rule applied only to the past two years, and suggested that Cruz was holding Hagel to a unique, higher standard.

Cruz replied that Hagel had only told the committee about direct compensation, not indirect compensation, and that two other examples set important precedents: Henry Kissinger’s nomination to the 9/11 commission, which was withdrawn because he did not wish to disclose his clients; and Hillary Clinton’s nomination to be Secretary of State, in which she and her husband voluntarily disclosed foreign donors to the Clintons’ charity.

Levin stuck to his argument that Cruz was applying a double standard, and rebuked the freshman Senator, suggesting that if he wanted to change the rules there were ways of doing so. Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) then entered the fray, suggesting Cruz had “crossed a line,” by suggesting the hypothetical that Hagel may have taken funds from enemy regimes, impugned the integrity and patriotism of the nominee. Cruz later replied that he was, on the contrary, reporting that Hagel had been honest–and yet had failed to answer the committee’s question fully. Sen. John McCain, who had earlier described Hagel’s testimony at his confirmation hearing as one of the worst he had seen, interjected to defend Hagel’s character, indirectly rebuking Cruz.