Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin postponed a panel vote that had been expected on Thursday on the nomination of former GOP Senator Chuck Hagel to be defense secretary.
The move came after Republicans demanded more financial information from Hagel, including details about compensation for speeches he delivered since leaving Capitol Hill.
Hagel's views on Israel, Iran and other subjects have drawn fire from most Senate Republicans. While Hagel appears currently to have just enough support in the Senate to break a possible filibuster and ultimately be confirmed, any delay could potentially complicate that.
Levin could have called the vote over GOP objections and approved Hagel with just Democratic support, but a committee aide said that the chairman, a Michigan Democrat, wants "to be fair and address concerns," and is not trying to "ram this through."
"The committee's review of the nomination is not yet complete," Levin said in a statement. "I intend to schedule a vote on the nomination as soon as possible."
The postponement was a victory of sorts for Republicans who have pushed Levin to hold off on the vote because they argue Hagel has not adequately responded to a long list of questions related to his speeches and his investments.
"This 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," 26 Republican senators told Hagel in a letter on Wednesday. "Until the committee receives full and complete answers, it cannot in good faith determine whether you should be confirmed as secretary of defense."
James Inhofe of Oklahoma, the top Republican on the Armed Services Committee, said, "I look for people to slow this train down and let's get everything we need. That's what I want to do."
Hagel's performance at last week's confirmation hearing continues to dog him - even among his supporters.
Hagel's muddled answers on basic issues, like the Obama administration's policy toward Iran, had some in the White House scratching their heads about why he wasn't better prepared for the most obvious inquiries.
"I don't think he took the prep sessions as seriously as he needed to," said one source close to the White House, adding that some there have made no secret of their unhappiness with Hagel's substandard performance.
Hagel went through three mock hearings, but some occurred before the inauguration, which could have been part of the problem, the source said.
In any case, he added, "Hagel made it easier for some to oppose him."
Another source close to the White House said that "short of something huge," President Barack Obama is likely to stick by his nominee.
And so will Democrats unless, as one put it, "we get a clear signal from the White House."
That hasn't happened, but the longer Hagel hangs out there without a confirmation vote, the more difficult the road becomes.
However, Republicans opposing Hagel have problems of their own. They don't have the votes necessary to support a filibuster, if a Republican senator should decide to go that route. GOP senators have hinted at a filibuster, but no one has stepped forward to commit to one.