The top Senate Democrat who's charged with ushering a smooth confirmation for President Obama's pick to be the next Pentagon chief was forced to delay a final vote on the nomination, U.S. News has learned.
The Senate Armed Services Committee is still reviewing former Nebraska Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel's nomination, according to Michigan Democratic Sen. Carl Levin, the committee's chairman. The vote was expected to take place this week.
It is unclear what has caused the delay, though senators on both sides of the aisle have increasingly questioned Hagel's aptitude for the job.
"I had hoped to hold a vote on the nomination this week, but the committee's review of the nomination is not yet complete," Levin said in a statement released Wednesday afternoon. "I intend to schedule a vote on the nomination as soon as possible."
The bulk of Hagel's 8-hour hearing on Jan. 31 focused on his previous statements regarding Israel and Iran. Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain lambasted Hagel for previous criticism of the Iraq surge, and said afterward he was still unsure how he would vote.
"I'm very disappointed in his failure to answer my questions," McCain said.
South Carolina Republican Sen. Lindsay Graham caught Hagel off guard when asking him to clarify comments he had made about an influential "Jewish lobby" in Washington.
"Name one dumb thing we've been goaded into doing because of the so-called 'Jewish lobby'?" Graham asked.
"I can't," Hagel responded.
Since then Hagel's support in the Senate has begun to fray, with even some Democrats quietly wondering why he performed to poorly in his confirmation hearing.
In June 2011, the committee voted to approve Leon Panetta to take over the Pentagon's top position five days after his hearing.