Former Nebraska Sen. Chuck Hagel testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington before the Senate Armed Services Committee's confirmation hearing, 31 January, 2013 (Photo: AP)
A Senate committee has delayed Thursday's expected vote on the nomination of former senator Chuck Hagel to be President Barack Obama's next defense secretary, in a victory for his Republican critics.
"The committee's vote on Senator Hagel's nomination has not been scheduled," Democratic Senator Carl Levin, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said Wednesday in a statement.
"I had hoped to hold a vote on the nomination this week, but the committee's review of the nomination is not yet complete. I intend to schedule a vote on the nomination as soon as possible," he said.
Obama nominated Hagel, a Republican from Nebraska who served two terms in the US Senate, to replace Leon Panetta as Pentagon chief.
Hagel has however angered several Republicans with some of his positions on Iran, Israel and US war policy.
In a Senate confirmation hearing late last month, Hagel was grilled for hours on his past positions against the Iraq war and sanctions over Tehran's nuclear program.
Republican Senators Lindsey Graham and James Inhofe told reporters they would rather see the vote postponed, with Graham saying he had yet to receive key information about payments that Hagel received for some of his speeches.
Graham told reporters he would prefer not to vote on the nomination "until I feel like we have the information we need to make an informed decision."
"We're supposed to vote tomorrow but I think we should wait," he said.
Inhofe, the top Republican on the Armed Services Committee, said a lawmaker could seek to delay a vote in the full Senate by putting a hold on the nomination, should it manage to pass out of committee.
"That could happen," he told reporters. But "I'm not sure who would be doing it if they do."
Even as Graham said he wanted to know more about which groups or individuals compensated Hagel for speeches he has given -- "Where did the money come from?" Graham asked -- he suggested it was as much about Hagel's positions.
"I have no animosity against Chuck Hagel," Graham said. "This is a question about a world view that needs to be exposed before you vote."
A Levin aide told AFP earlier that the committee chairman had been "working with members who have concerns" in an effort to go forward with a Thursday vote.