Fifteen Republican senators wrote a letter to President Obama urging him to drop Chuck Hagel as his nominee for Defense Secretary, because “The occupant of this critical office should be someone whose candidacy is neither controversial nor divisive.”
“It would be unprecedented for a Secretary of Defense to take office without the broad base of bipartisan support and confidence needed to serve effectively in this critical position,” the senators wrote. “Over the last half-century, no Secretary of Defense has been confirmed and taken office with more than three Senators voting against him. Further, in the history of this position, none has ever been confirmed with more than 11 opposing votes.”
John McCain, R-Ariz., and Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., who have both been outspoken against Hagel’s nomination, were not amongst the senators to sign the letter.
And Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., told the Decatur Daily that he’ll vote to confirm Hagel: “He’s probably as good as we’re going to get.” Shelby is the third Republican to say he’ll back Hagel, joining Sens. Thad Cochran, Miss., and Mike Johanns, Neb.
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Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., said he opposes a filibuster of Chuck Hagel’s nomination for Defense Secretary, but will vote against Hagel’s confirmation itself.
“I do not believe that we should filibuster,” he told Politico. “To vote against is entirely the judgment of each individual senator, but a filibuster I think would be inappropriate.” McCain added that he would vote for a cloture if the rest of his party initiated a filibuster.
Other Republicans also seemed wary of using the filibuster against Hagel, including Richard Burr, N.C., Susan Collins, Maine, Sen. Roy Blunt, Mo., Pat Roberts, R-Kan. and Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa.
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After grilling Chuck Hagel on his comments about the “Jewish lobby,” Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said he will oppose Hagel’s nomination to Defense Secretary. ”It’s not looking good,” Graham told Foreign Policy. “I don’t think he’s been consistent over time on major issues.”
Graham was just one of the Republican votes that Hagel lost during the hearing, which was often comabtive when it came time for Republicans to ask questions. ”I don’t think he’s going to be able the questions I’m going to have. I saw the hearing and I won’t be able to support him,” said Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., who is not on the committee, but said he reviewed what went on in the hearings.
“I have serious reservations about it,” Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D,, also told Foreign Policy. “I know Chuck. He’s a good guy. I like him personally. But I have serious reservations about him becoming the secretary of defense.”
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Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., got heated with Chuck Hagel during the Senate Armed Services Committee confirmation hearings on Thursday, pressing Hagel on whether or not he was right in condemning the troop surge in Iraq in 2007.
McCain referred to comments Hagel made in 2007, when Hagel said that the surge would amount to the “most dangerous foreign policy blunder in this country since Vietnam”:
McCain: “This committee deserves your judgment as to whether you were right or wrong about the surge.”
Hagel: ”I’ll explain why I made those comments.”
McCain: “I want to know if you were right or wrong. That’s a direct question. I expect a direct answer.”
Hagel: “The surge assisted in the objective, but if we review the record a little bit.”
McCain: “Will you please answer the question. Were you correct or incorrect when you said that the surge would be the ‘most dangerous foreign policy blunder in this country since Vietnam.’ Were you correct or incorrect, yes or no?”
Hagel: “I’m not going to give you a yes or no, I think it’s far more complicated than that.”
Hagel ended by noting that his comments were about “not just the surge, but about the overall war of choice going into Iraq.”
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