January 6th, 2013
10:41 AM ET
2 years ago

GOP senators: Hagel is in for a fight

(CNN) – Republican lawmakers voiced staunch opposition Sunday to their former colleague Chuck Hagel, who is expected to be nominated Monday to be President Barack Obama's next secretary of defense.

Hagel has taken withering criticism from Republicans and Democrats alike since his name was first floated as a potential successor to current Defense Secretary Leon Panetta more than a month ago. Republicans have struck upon comments in a 2007 interview that some perceive as anti-Jewish, when Hagel said the "Jewish lobby intimidated lawmakers."

They've also lambasted positions Hagel took as a GOP senator, including his opposition to unilateral sanctions against Iran, as well as votes opposing the labeling of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps as a terrorist organization. He also opposed the "surge" of troops in Iraq favored by then-President George W. Bush and members of his administration.

On Sunday, Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina said on CNN's "State of the Union" that Hagel was an "in-your-face" choice by Obama. Graham didn't rule out staging a filibuster to prevent a vote on Hagel's nomination.

"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," Graham told CNN chief political correspondent Candy Crowley.

Sen. Ted Cruz, a Republican freshman from Texas elected with strong backing from the tea party, said on "Fox News Sunday" that it was "very difficult to imagine a circumstance in which I could support (Hagel's) confirmation."

"It's interesting, the president seems bound and determined to proceed down this path despite the fact that Hagel's record is very, very troubling on the nation of Israel," Cruz said. "He has not been a friend to Israel. And in my view the United States should stand unshakably with Israel."

Sen. Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader in the Senate, was softer in his tone toward Hagel, saying the former senator from Nebraska would receive a "thorough vetting" just like any other presidential nominee.

"Whoever is nominated for secretary of defense is going to have to have a full understanding of our close relationship with our Israeli allies, the Iranian threat, and the importance of having a robust military," McConnell said on ABC's "This Week." "So whoever that is I think will be given a thorough vetting. And if Sen. Hagel is nominated, he'll be subjected to the same kinds of review of his credentials as anyone else."

Graham similarly said that Hagel's nomination hearings would be influential in determining the way he will ultimately vote, conceding it was possible that some of the comments being used to criticize Hagel could have been used out of context.

"But when you put all the statements together, you have somebody who is very antagonistic towards the state of Israel and the issues we jointly face," Graham said on CNN.

While there has been no official announcement that Hagel is the nominee, the White House has told some senior members of Congress to expect it, a knowledgeable source told CNN chief political analyst Gloria Borger.

Obama's decision to tap Hagel for the top Defense post, along with his firm refusal to negotiate on raising the federal debt ceiling, were signals of a pugnacious four years ahead, Graham said.

"[Hagel] 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. It looks like the second term of President Obama is going to be an in-your-face term," he said.

Sen. Dick Durbin, a Democrat from Illinois, agreed that nominating Hagel was not a ho-hum choice by the president.

"It tells me that he not only won the election but he wants to lead this country," Durbin said, also on CNN's "State of the Union." "You know, sitting back here and avoiding any confrontation and any controversy is going to make a weakened presidency. He needs to lead for the good of this nation, and we need to work together and find compromise and consensus in both political parties."

CNN's Greg Clary contributed to this report.


Filed under: Chuck Hagel • Department of Defense
soundoff (220 Responses)
  1. Former Republican, now an Independent

    Let's just be honest. The one and only reason the neo-cons in my former party are resisting Chuck Hagel's confirmation is the fact that he had the courage to stand against his party and not back John McCain for president. Hagel did not believe McCain was the best candidate and neither did the voters. These neo-cons who are destroying the GOP, are a vindictive group of extreme partisan, non-compromise politicians that regard their radical agenda more important than the American citizens.

    January 6, 2013 02:31 pm at 2:31 pm |
  2. md22mdrx

    To whom exactly do the GOP answer to?

    It seems as if the GOP care more about Israel than the USA. Is seems as if the GOP takes their marching orders from ISRAEL, not the American people. Remember Romney's Israel debacle during his run? He couldn't pledge fealty to a foreign country fast enough.

    January 6, 2013 02:32 pm at 2:32 pm |
  3. scottabc

    Israel already receives more U.S. aid than any other country, much of which they waste on their quixotic attempt to illegally colonize the Occupied West Bank. Now they want to choose our 'Defense' Secretary too. Its long past the time for Israel to learn to stand on its own, negotiate sensible peace agreements with its neighbors (backed by security guarantees by the world community) and get out of the Occupied Territories. During times of budget crises this shouldn't even be a discussion, it should be over and done.

    January 6, 2013 02:33 pm at 2:33 pm |
  4. James L.

    If the Democrats formally recognized sun rise the Republicans would spend millions of tax payer dollars fighting it and then take three youths of the years off to celebrate and schmooze with billionaire donors!

    January 6, 2013 02:36 pm at 2:36 pm |
  5. DocHollywood

    Several points. First, Israel should not determine the United State's policies, nor the internal picks of the President for cabinet or any other jobs. Second, the republicans still oppose this president on every decision, they trump up reasons to do so. Face it, boys. You lost, get over it, try and move more mainstream to the American people. Become a party of relevance again. Third, republicans are upset at Hagel because he dared to buck their ideology and their leader. They can't stand anyone with an open mind. They have become a national, and international embarassment.

    January 6, 2013 02:37 pm at 2:37 pm |
  6. James L.

    If the Democrats formally recognized sunrise, the Republicans would spend millions of tax payer dollars fighting it and then take three fourths of the year off to celebrate and schmooze with billionaire donors!

    January 6, 2013 02:37 pm at 2:37 pm |
  7. Paul

    All this talk about Israel, I thought he was being nominated as the US secretary of Defense...

    January 6, 2013 02:38 pm at 2:38 pm |
  8. An Observer

    Isn't it amazing how republicans like to devour their own; and isn't it a great surge of bipartisanship to threaten to filibuster one of the President's choices for his Cabinet? Oh, I forgot, we're talking about republicans.

    January 6, 2013 02:39 pm at 2:39 pm |
  9. Donkey Party

    Ancient Texan – As usual, your comment (or argument), makes no sense at all. Was the President SUPPOSED to nominate a REAL Republican conservative? You right-wingers and your total lack of intellect are something else.

    January 6, 2013 02:42 pm at 2:42 pm |
  10. bill1024

    Why is being "a friend of Israel" even that much of a consideration? The primary thing is to be a friend to the USA, which Hagel has clearly demonstrated.

    January 6, 2013 02:43 pm at 2:43 pm |
  11. 111Dave111

    Why do Graham & McCain think they are president?
    They are again interfering in the President's Constitutional CHOICE of a cabinet.
    They are in Minority in the Senate, and are from mid-sized states, Arizona (pop #16) & South Carolina (pop #24). #7, Ohio, is bigger than the two of them together.

    January 6, 2013 02:43 pm at 2:43 pm |
  12. A not-so-stupid former republican

    What happened to Reagan's 11th Commandment? The current republican thugs would kick Reagan out of the party even though they tout him as their iconic leader or the founder of modern conservatism.

    January 6, 2013 02:45 pm at 2:45 pm |
  13. Newtonslaw

    Why is it the GOPers always want to fight? Why don't they try to help? You would think they would learn something after a string of losses but "No" (their mantra), doesn't matter what issue they have to "fight" Obama. We are all tired of this childish behavior.

    January 6, 2013 02:46 pm at 2:46 pm |
  14. daniel925

    Karl Jonas, what kind of enlightened Jewish home did you grow up in? Very well said.

    January 6, 2013 02:49 pm at 2:49 pm |
  15. UnFred

    So, the president wants a cell phone expert. Gee I wonder why..

    January 6, 2013 02:49 pm at 2:49 pm |
  16. Robert Jordan

    Why is Hagel's views on the "Jewish Lobby" even controversial. In the first place, by definition, the purpose of lobbying is to influence decision making. Secondly, does anyone seriously question the undue influence of AIPAC et al. in literally dictating US policy. US interests are not coterminus with those of Israel. In fact, the unyielding support for Israel has harmed this country's interests grievously. The US cannot be seen as a legitimate broker in negotiating the Palestinian issue & thusly is discounted in the arab world. Furthermore, Iran is not a US problem nor does Iran threaten the interests of the US. Israel can more than defend itself with 200 nuclear warheads deployed on German built subs to liquidate Iran should it be attacked. We have absolutely no interest in lavishing endless sums on a recalcitrant state which threatens to drag us into yet another senseless & unaffordable war. THe Senate's slavish devotion to Israel is just one more indicator of how congress does not represent the interests of the American people.

    January 6, 2013 02:50 pm at 2:50 pm |
  17. Jack

    I am a conservative, a former republican and I wonder why the GOP has make everything difficult!

    January 6, 2013 02:51 pm at 2:51 pm |
  18. ThinkAgain: All the GOP's policies are proven failures.

    @Karl Jonas: Thank you for your thoughtful post and details. Unfortunately, the GOP is filled with folks who care more about continuing their agenda of making our president and country fail than anything else.

    All the more reason why we need to start working TODAY to get rid of the obstructionist Repubs in 2014.

    January 6, 2013 02:53 pm at 2:53 pm |
  19. Tony in Maine

    Lindsey Graham, because he was a military lawyer, is suddenly the go to expert on military affairs along with legacy Annapolis grad and ex Tailhooker, John McCain. I do wish the press would find someone with a bit more knowledge who is a bit less of a party hack to call for comment when something is going on that involves the Services.

    January 6, 2013 02:53 pm at 2:53 pm |
  20. Huh?!

    They'll destroy their own just to try to stall any progress. People like "Ancient texan" and Grahm (And Boehner, and Paul and, and, and....) confuse being moderate with being an extremist.

    January 6, 2013 02:55 pm at 2:55 pm |
  21. rosaadriana

    OH boy... Obama could nominate Darth Cheney himself and the GOP would find something to whine about.

    January 6, 2013 02:57 pm at 2:57 pm |
  22. Momof2in1year

    Ancient Texan:

    Seriously... the President should not "pick a fight" and Hegel was never a Conservative Republican? Really? Why should a President who won an election not have HIS cabinet officers be people of his choosing? Is there a requirement for a Democrat to have a cabinet containing Conservative Republicans? As someone who has never been a Democrat, but has been a long -time Republican– I find what are now considered Conservative Republicans to be scary and pretty ridiculous. I wish there was a moderate Republican on the scene who has a chance of leading the party, but it seems to be running more and more off the rails. You suggesting that there should be any Conservative Republicans required in this President's cabinet shows how far down the road to Crazytown you have traveled.

    January 6, 2013 02:59 pm at 2:59 pm |
  23. Charlotte

    Ancient Texan – what on earth leads you to think Obama intended to nominate a conservative? And why would he do so? And by nominating a moderate, how is this "picking a fight" when instead it should be viewed as a president configuing his OWN CABINET the way he needs it to be. There is no excuse for Obama to pick a conservative. There is no excuse for GOP to be fighting his nomination.

    January 6, 2013 03:02 pm at 3:02 pm |
  24. Haha

    Um, they do know Hagel is a Republcan right? What did they expect? Rush Limbaugh?

    January 6, 2013 03:03 pm at 3:03 pm |
  25. Surthurfurd

    Obama has promoted more Republicans and Republican ideas than Democrats and Democratic ideas and each time the Republicans attack him as a left winger radical.

    January 6, 2013 03:16 pm at 3:16 pm |
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