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Senate panel postpones vote on Hagel

Seeks further details about paid speeches

Former senator Chuck Hagel is President Obama’s nominee for secretary of defense.

J. Scott Applewhite

Former senator Chuck Hagel is President Obama’s nominee for secretary of defense.

WASHINGTON — A Senate panel on Wednesday abruptly postponed a vote on Chuck Hagel’s nomination to be defense secretary amid Republican demands for more information from President Obama’s nominee about his paid speeches and business dealings.

Senator Carl Levin, the Michigan Democrat who chairs the Armed Services Committee, had hoped to vote on the nomination on Thursday during a separate hearing on Libya, but he issued a statement late Wednesday saying no vote would occur this week.

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‘‘The committee’s review of the nomination is not yet complete. I intend to schedule a vote on the nomination as soon as possible,’’ Levin said.

Hours earlier, committee Republicans said they were dissatisfied with information Hagel had provided the panel after his confirmation hearing last week, and no vote should occur. They focused on his speeches and affiliations with organizations such as the Atlantic Council, a nonpartisan public interest group.

Hagel, a former two-term Republican senator from Nebraska, has faced strong opposition from his former GOP colleagues who have questioned his past statements and votes on Israel, Iran, and nuclear weapons. It was unclear whether the delay in the vote would derail the nomination or merely postpone action on Obama’s choice to succeed Defense Secretary Leon Panetta.

In a letter to Hagel, Republicans complained that he failed to answer several questions, including details on all compensation of more than $5,000 that he had received over the past five years. They also had pressed him on his recent speeches, the groups he has addressed, and their donors.

‘‘The committee, and the American people, have a right to know if a nominee for secretary of defense has received compensation, directly or indirectly, from foreign sources,’’ Senate Republicans wrote. ‘‘Until the committee receives full and complete answers, it cannot in good faith determine whether you should be confirmed as secretary of defense.’’

The Associated Press obtained a copy of the letter, signed by more than two dozen Republicans, including Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky.

‘‘I’m not going to make any decision on Senator Hagel until we get all the information we’ve requested,’’ Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, said Wednesday. ‘‘I don’t think we should be voting.’’

Hagel, in a separate letter to committee Republicans, had tried to explain that some of the information they were seeking was not available.

‘‘My role with respect to the entities you identify is as a current and former board or advisory board member. I was not involved in the day-to-day management of any of these firms, and have not been involved with some of the firms for years now,’’ Hagel wrote. ‘‘Thus, as a matter of fact, I do not believe I have any of the information requested. More importantly, the information you seek is legally controlled by the individual entities and not mine to disclose.’’

Senate Democrats, who hold the majority, continue to stand behind the nomination, and no Democrat has said he or she would vote against the president’s pick for his second-term national security team. Hagel, 66, is a decorated Vietnam combat veteran.

About a dozen Republicans have said they would oppose their former colleague, and several others have indicated they were likely to vote no.

Democrats hold a 55-45 advantage in the Senate, and two Republicans have announced their support for Hagel — Thad Cochran of Mississippi and Mike Johanns of Hagel’s home state of Nebraska. More than a handful of Republicans, including John McCain of Arizona, have said they oppose a filibuster of the nomination.

Last month, Hagel told Pentagon officials he would divest some of his financial holdings and resign from several corporate boards and public interest groups to avoid potential conflicts of interest if he wins Senate confirmation.

He said he would resign his corporate board post at Chevron Corp. and shed investments in the energy company, a major government contractor. He also would cut ties and investments with the McCarthy Group, an Omaha private equity firm.

Hagel also pledged to cut ties with several academic and public interest groups, including Georgetown University and the Atlantic Council.

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