An aide to Sen. Lisa Murkowski says the Alaska Republican has yet to decide whether she will vote to confirm Chuck Hagel as U.S. defense secretary, despite a senior Democratic senator placing her in the “Yay” column.
At issue is a comment Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin, D-Mich., made to reporters Jan. 31 following Hagel’s eight-hour confirmation hearing after he was asked whether any Republicans would support President Barack Obama’s nominee to run the Pentagon.
“I don’t think he’s going to lose any Democratic votes — that we know of,” Levin said. “I think there’s at least a few Republicans who’ve already said publicly that they [will] support his nomination.” When pressed, Levin pointed to GOP Sens. Thad Cochran of Mississippi and Murkowski.
It turns out, however, that Murkowski never publicly indicated her intention to vote for — or against — the former Nebraska Republican.
Murkowski is “still undecided,” an aide told Defense News the next day.
“She is reviewing all eight hours of testimony,” the aide said. “There is a lot more to consider after yesterday.”
Hagel’s nomination has angered congressional Republicans, conservative pundits, pro-Israel groups, proponents of wide use of U.S. military power and Iran hawks. During a rocky confirmation hearing, Hagel did little to assuage the concerns of Republicans, and sources say he will be lucky to get more than 70 votes in the 100-seat Senate.
Most GOP members are expected to vote against the nomination in a mostly party-line vote.
Since the hearing, GOP senators have used words like “inconsistent,” “contradictory” and “weak” to describe a confirmation performance Washington Republicans and Democrats say was unimpressive at times and often contentious.
For instance, Republicans said Hagel did little to assuage their concerns that he would advise President Barack Obama against being tougher on Iran and that he is too anti-Israel to be defense secretary.
To get Hagel confirmed, the magic number is 60. That is the number of votes Democratic leaders will need to avoid a nomination-killing filibuster. No GOP senator has said they plan to mount a filibuster attempt. If none do, then the 55 Democrats in the chamber would clear Hagel of the 51 votes he would need.
“I hope there may be some who were skeptical, but who were undecided before this hearing, will look at him in another light,” Levin said. “I think there are a whole lot of people in the Senate who don’t have a good idea of him. … There are a lot of undecided votes.”
Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin, D-Ill., recently said all 55 Democratic senators will vote for Hagel.