NEW YORK (TIP): Republican senatorshave delayed a vote to confirm PresidentObama’s nominee for US secretary ofdefense.They say questions remain about SenatorChuck Hagel but have agreed to an up-ordownvote later this month.Mr Hagel’s backers say the US militaryneeds a leader in place while troops remainin Afghanistan and North Korea has justtested a nuclear device.Outgoing Secretary of Defense LeonPanetta is to remain in his post until MrHagel is confirmed.
‘Not without consequence’
White House press secretary Jay Carneydenounced the delay, saying SenateRepublicans had put political posturingahead of America’s national security.”A clear majority in the US Senatesupports Sen Hagel’s confirmation, sotoday’s action runs against both themajority will of the Senate and our nation’sinterest,” he said in a statement.”This waste of time is not withoutconsequence. For the sake of nationalsecurity, it’s time to stop playing politicswith our Department of Defense and tomove beyond the distractions and delay.”
But Republicans, who have agreed to avote following an upcoming 10-day recess,have said they need more time to weighoutstanding questions about Mr Hagel.South Carolina Senator Lindsey Grahamalso said he would continue to use theconfirmation vote as leverage in his effortto wring more information from the WhiteHouse about the response to the 11September attack on a US consulate inBenghazi, Libya.Mr Hagel was a private citizen at thetime of the attack.”There seems to not be much interest tohold this president accountable for anational security breakdown that led to thefirst ambassador being killed in the line ofduty in over 30 years,” Sen Graham said.”No, the debate on Chuck Hagel is notover. It has not been serious. We don’t havethe information we need. And I’m going tofight the idea of jamming somebodythrough until we get answers about whatthe president did personally when it cameto the Benghazi debacle.”
One vote short
On Thursday, Republicans forced thedelay with a parliamentary manoeuvreblocking the Senate Democratic leader’smotion to end debate on Mr Hagel’snomination and proceed to an up-or-downvote on confirmation.Even though the Democrats command amajority of 55 votes, Senate rules in thiscase require them to come up with 60 to enddebate. They fell one short.Mr Hagel, a decorated and twicewoundedveteran of the Vietnam War,served in the Senate for 12 years.But correspondents say he is seen bysome of his former colleagues as arenegade for breaking with Republicanranks on issues such as the Iraq War.He has also been criticised during theconfirmation process for comments hemade years ago claiming “the Jewish lobby”had too much influence over Americanpolicy.His remarks in 1998 that a nominee foran ambassadorial post was “openly,aggressively gay” have also raisedeyebrows. Mr Hagel has since apologisedfor that comment.