Fifteen GOP senators today called on President Obama to withdraw the nomination of Chuck Hagel as the next Defense secretary.
“Last Thursday, the Senate voted to continue its consideration of your nomination of former Senator Chuck Hagel to serve as our nation’s next Secretary of Defense. While we respect Senator Hagel’s honorable military service, in the interest of national security, we respectfully request that you withdraw his nomination,” states the letter.
The senators argued that a Defense secretary should be “neither controversial nor divisive,” and note that over the past 50 years no one in the position has taken office with more than three “no” votes in the upper chamber. In the entire history of this position, no one has ever been confirmed with more than 11 opposing votes.
The Hagel threatens to be a party-line vote, with a potential Democratic crossover or two.
“In contrast, in 2011, you nominated Leon Panetta, who was confirmed by the Senate with unanimous support. His Pentagon tenure has been a huge success, due in part to the high degree of trust and confidence that Senators on both sides of the aisle have placed in him,” they wrote. “The next Secretary of Defense should have a similar level of broad-based bipartisan support and confidence in order to succeed at a time when the Department of Defense faces monumental challenges, including Iran’s relentless drive to obtain nuclear weapons, a heightened threat of nuclear attack from North Korea, potentially deep budget cuts, a strategic pivot to the Asia-Pacific region, military operations in Afghanistan, the ongoing Global War on Terror, the continued slaughter of Syrian civilians at the hands of their own government, and other aftermath of the Arab Spring.”
“Likewise, Senator Hagel’s performance at his confirmation hearing was deeply concerning, leading to serious doubts about his basic competence to meet the substantial demands of the office. While Senator Hagel’s erratic record and myriad conversions on key national security issues are troubling enough, his statements regarding Iran were disconcerting. More than once during the hearing, he proclaimed the legitimacy of the current regime in Tehran, which has violently repressed its own citizens, rigged recent elections, provided material support for terrorism, and denied the Holocaust.”
The letter was signed by Sens. John Cornyn (R-Texas), Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), David Vitter (R-La.), Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Mike Lee (R-Utah), Pat Toomey (R-Pa.), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Dan Coats (R-Ind.), Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), Jim Risch (R-Idaho), John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), and Tim Scott (R-S.C.).
“Regarding U.S. policy on Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons, Senator Hagel displayed a seeming ambivalence about whether containment or prevention is the best approach, which gives us great concern. Any sound strategy on Iran must be underpinned by the highly credible threat of U.S. military force, and there is broad bipartisan agreement on that point. If Senator Hagel becomes Secretary of Defense, the military option will have near zero credibility. This sends a dangerous message to the regime in Tehran, as it seeks to obtain the means necessary to harm both the United States and Israel,” the senators told Obama.
“We have concluded that Senator Hagel is not the right candidate to hold the office of Secretary of Defense, and we respectfully request that you withdraw his nomination.”