Senate Republicans are lining up against the expected nomination of former Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.) to replace retiring Defense Secretary Leon Panetta.
Multiple reports have said the nomination should come Monday. There is no presidential statement yet on the White House schedule for tomorrow.
“I will not support Chuck Hagel’s nomination to the Department of Defense. His record and past statements, particularly with respect to rogue nations like Iran, are extremely concerning to me,” Senate GOP Whip John Cornyn (R-Texas) said in a statement today.
“His opposition to Iranian sanctions and support for direct, unconditional talks with its leaders is both at odds with current U.S. policy and a threat to global security. To make matters worse, he has called for direct negotiations with Hamas,” Cornyn added. “As Iran becomes increasingly hostile and gains influence in the region, the worst possible message we could send to our friend Israel and the rest of our allies in the Middle East is Chuck Hagel.”
“Chuck Hagel, if confirmed to be secretary of defense, would be the most antagonistic secretary of defense towards the State of Israel in our nation’s history,” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), who confirmed he’ll be voting for Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) for secretary of State, said on CNN’s State of the Union. “…He has long severed his ties with the Republican Party. This is an in your face nomination by the president to all of us who are supportive of Israel. I don’t know what his management experience is regarding the Pentagon, little, if any, so I think it’s an incredibly controversial choice.”
Kerry should serve as a symbolic vote for Republicans to demonstrate that they’re not opposing nominees simply because Obama nominated them.
“And it looks like the second term of Barack Obama is going to be an in-your-face term,” Graham added. “I’m not going to talk to you at all about the about [debt] ceiling and here’s my secretary of defense nominee that will get a lot of bipartisan concern.”
“If Hagel is nominated, it is very difficult to imagine the circumstance in which I could support his confirmation,” freshman Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) said on Fox News Sunday. “…The job of the secretary of defense is to be a serious credible strength and deterrent and, unfortunately, I think weakness in a secretary of defense invites conflict, because bullies don’t respect weakness.”
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) was careful about his assessment of Hagel, though. McConnell praised Hagel’s grasp of foreign policy and national security when Hagel left the Senate in 2008.
“If Senator Hagel’s nominated, he’ll be subjected to the same kinds of review of his credentials as anyone else,” McConnell said today on ABC’s This Week. “I’m going to take a look at all the things that Chuck has said over the years and review that, and in terms of his qualifications to lead our nation’s military.”
“I’m going to wait and see how the hearings go and see whether Chuck’s views square with the job he would be nominated to do.”
“I think it will be a lot of tough questions of Senator Hagel, but he’ll be treated fairly by Republicans in the senate,” McConnell promised on NBC’s Meet the Press.