Defense & National Security

Who’s opposing Chuck Hagel: a tally

Who’s opposing Chuck Hagel: a tally

With multiple sources reporting that President Barack Obama will nominate Chuck Hagel for secretary of defense early next week, the former Republican senator from Nebraska is receiving little love from either side of the aisle.

Republicans and the Jewish lobby have complained about Hagel’s unfriendliness to Israel, his stated desire to pare down the Defense Department, and his lack of experience among the field of candidates. Democrats have challenged him on anti-homosexual comments he’s made.

Here are the definite (or possible) “nay” votes so far for Hagel.

From the right:

Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas): Will oppose

The Senate Republican whip led the charge of Republican opposition against Hagel in the Senate, telling the Washington Post’s Jennifer Rubin that he could not support a Hagel nomination. In addition to Hagel’s positions on Israel, Cornyn told Rubin he disagreed with Hagel’s position that a nuclear-armed Iran could be contained and that a total global nuclear disarmament was possible and should be pursued.

Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla): Will oppose

The junior senator from Oklahoma followed Cornyn’s lead, announcing on Face the Nation Dec. 30 that he “cannot vote for” Chuck Hagel if nominated.

“Just simply because of some of the positions he’s taken, and the statements that he’s made,” Coburn said, adding that the former senator lacked the chops to run effectively an organization the size of the Pentagon.

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.): May place a hold on the nomination

Rubio has implied he may put a hold on Hagel’s nomination based on the prospective defense secretary’s positions on Cuba. Hagel has said he wants to lift the U.S. trade embargo with Cuba, which maintains a communist government, with Fidel Castro’s brother Raul at its head.

“Promoting democracy in Latin America is a priority for Sen. Rubio,” the senator’s communications director, Alex Conant, told the Washington Free Beacon.

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.): Wants to see tough questions asked

While remaining noncommittal about his own vote, Graham predicted on Meet the Press Dec. 23 there would be little Republican support for a Hagel nomination, even among Hagel’s former colleagues in the Senate.

“I like Chuck. But his positions, I didn’t really frankly know all of them, are really out of the mainstream, and well to the left of the president,” Graham said. “I think it’ll be a challenging nomination. But the hearings will matter.”

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) Hagel’s record needs to be examined

The outgoing Senate Armed Services Committee ranking member told Politico Hagel couldn’t be considered a Republican given his critique of the party and support of the Obama administration and said he looked forward to vetting Hagel in the confirmation process, though he didn’t make clear what his own vote would be.

“We obviously want to review his whole record and go through the regular process,” McCain said.

From the left:

Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) Will oppose

Frank has been vocal about his opposition to Hagel because of the former senator’s comments in 1998 criticizing a Clinton ambassador nominee as “openly, aggressively gay.” Hagel has apologized for the remarks, but Frank has not backed down, becoming the front of Democratic opposition to a Hagel nomination.

“I cannot think of any other minority group in the U.S. today where such a negative statement and action made in 1998 would not be an obstacle to a major Presidential appointment,” Frank said in a statement.

Of course, as an outgoing Congressman, Frank will not have a vote in the Senate confirmation hearings. But if he is chosen in a special election to replace Sen. John Kerry, Obama’s nominee for Secretary of State, Frank may arrive at the Senate in time to weigh in.

Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.): I’d have to study his record

Schumer told Meet the Press Dec. 23 that he was not ready to commit to supporting Hagel–not without a thorough review.
He was also cool on whether Obama should nominate Hagel for the position in the first place.

“Well, that’s his choice. I think once he makes it, his record will be studied carefully,” Schumer said. “But until that point, I think we’re not going to know what’s going to happen.”

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