National Security Brief: Expert Calls Out GOP Senator’s ‘Unprecedented’ Hagel Obstruction

Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI), chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, announced on Wednesday that he will delay the committee’s vote on Chuck Hagel’s nomination for Secretary of Defense. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), a committee member, wants Hagel to hand over the texts of private speeches and to disclose the financial dealings of private companies he’s associated with. There’s one problem, however, Hagel says he doesn’t have complete records of the speeches and, as he told Cruz and the committee Republicans regarding the companies’ business dealings, “the information you seek is legally controlled by the individual entities and not mine to disclose.”

Norman Ornstein, an expert on congressional procedure at the conservative American Enterprise Institute, called Cruz’s tactics “unprecedented.” “You could say that there’s been requests for detailed information [in the past],” Ornstein told the Daily Beast, “but this goes even beyond the intrusive questionnaires candidates fill out during the vetting process.” Ornstein also specifically called out Cruz. “That a Freshman senator would ask for that level of information says more about Ted Cruz than about anything else,” he said. “I’ve never heard of anything like that before,” adding, “but you could say that Ted Cruz in the Senate is unprecedented too.”

In other news:

  • Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei rejected Vice President Biden’s offer for direct, one-on-one negotiations with the United States, saying “talks will not solve any problems.”
  • Meanwhile, the Obama administration approved a new round of sanctions on Iran “intended to force Iran into what amounts to a form of barter trade for oil, because payments for oil deliveries can no longer be sent to accounts inside Iran.”
  • But the Wall Street Journal reports: Iranian banks have managed to bypass a ban imposed last year that was intended to cut its access to global financial transactions through the world’s most-used electronic payment system, known as Swift, according to executives that run the system.
  • Bloomberg news reports: Crews for U.S. Air Force B-2 stealth bombers have been trained to drop the Pentagon’s 30,000-pound “bunker-buster” bomb, making it ready for combat, according to the commander of the service’s long-range strike command.
  • USA Today reports: Concussions or mild traumatic brain injuries inflicted on thousands of U.S. troops who fought in Iraq and Afghanistan may be linked to post-traumatic stress disorder and suicide, according to new research.