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. BD70

    Hagel was well liked by his republican party. Until Obama selected him...now all of a sudden he is a dirt bag who hates Israel. Give me a break.

    January 6, 2013 06:33 pm at 6:33 pm |
  2. smknbluebear

    it does not matter who is elected/nominated because the country is run by the Pentagon and the CIA
    Just ask Eisenhower, JFK, MLK, RFK.....

    January 6, 2013 06:37 pm at 6:37 pm |
  3. John

    It may come out that Mr. Hagel is not the best man for the job. But the evidence so far-INCLUDING this GOP resistance-suggests to me that he is a very, very good choice for consideration. I LIKE his independence of thought. I like the fact that Obama, whose decision-making impresses me, would choose a man who would not be a lap-dog to the POTUS either-let alone to a foreign power.

    January 6, 2013 06:43 pm at 6:43 pm |
  4. bcrunner

    No wonder President Obama has such a hard time passing anything.. The Republicans even turn on their own...

    January 6, 2013 06:45 pm at 6:45 pm |
  5. blue dog

    Desperate times indeed for GOP. If a republican is not acceptable for defense secretary, then who?

    January 6, 2013 06:46 pm at 6:46 pm |
  6. Sirned

    Lookie over here folks at this new battle waged by Republicans so you won't notice the 200 billion corporate give aways in the Fiscal Cliff deal.....Republican no new taxes pushed to raise your payroll taxes ...Who are these zombies?

    January 6, 2013 06:48 pm at 6:48 pm |
  7. Anthony in California

    yolanda
    @IvotedforObama...try a new rap. The race card is tired.

    No i's not actually. You think these Republican tigers all of a sudden have new stripes? You're in denial or just desensitized.

    January 6, 2013 06:51 pm at 6:51 pm |
  8. Gina

    Anyone with an defiant position against Israel is the right person for this job. We pay Israel millions (cost cutting opportunity) to get nothing but spit in our face. And, as people have stated above, the republicans are the party of "NO" – what a waste of time that is tearing down America. 2014 elections are coming and not soon enough! .

    January 6, 2013 06:55 pm at 6:55 pm |
  9. Mr. Correct

    Good ol' Republicans. They shoot each other in the back the instant they see one of their own trying to participate in the government for a change.
    The American public has wisely learned to filter out every word of gibberish that they spout in their mindless, robotic efforts to shut down the government and destroy American society forever.

    January 6, 2013 06:56 pm at 6:56 pm |
  10. Alina77

    I am so tired of this "GOP prepares for new battle" thing... These people will not stop until US will be nothing to battle for.

    January 6, 2013 06:59 pm at 6:59 pm |
  11. kathy/Minnesota

    When will the GOP learn? They are and have been (since 2008) in self destuction mode. This constant "SAY NO TO WHATEVER OBAMA WANTS" is really getting "OLD" the face of the country is not what it was.........they (GOP) are going to have to accept what is. Lindsay Graham, "constantly" spews his BS about anything to do with the President..... So obvious....... He has that down south,red neck Beaver Ceaver(haircut) look :)

    January 6, 2013 07:02 pm at 7:02 pm |
  12. kathy/Minnesota

    @yolanda, The race card is tired....but it continues to be in full effect. Actually up until Obama took office I didn't realize it was "STILL" this bad....That is why we saw soooo many people waiting "HOURS" to vote........

    January 6, 2013 07:06 pm at 7:06 pm |
  13. Jewels

    JohnRJohnson: More like, Graham needs to retire. He said Obama won wth the Debt Ceiling - and that's very telling about his way of working. It's not a win/lose matter, man....

    January 6, 2013 07:06 pm at 7:06 pm |
  14. bellarue

    When did Israel become our 51st state? We're already giving them massive subsidies with absolutely no return whatsoever. I understand that they have no friends in that area of the world, and that this is not entirely their fault. Bottom line: what is that to us, and why would we jeopardize our standing in the world for a nation that feels absolutely no loyalty to us.

    January 6, 2013 07:10 pm at 7:10 pm |
  15. Friedman

    That the "Jewish lobby intimidates lawyers" is simply a fact.
    They try to intimidate everyone- its their schtick.
    Its not "anti-Jewish"
    However, playing the victim, perhaps for another hundred years, is not what Israel needs.
    Time to grow up.

    January 6, 2013 07:14 pm at 7:14 pm |
  16. mher

    the reason for all this negative backlash against Hagel's nomination has only to do for his "neutral" &" balanced" opinion of israel which for the jewish lobby plus for our senate & congress (dem.+ rep.} is not sufficient & acceptable..Chuck Hagel is a true patriot & he is one of the few who puts this great nation's interest first /unlike the rest majority of our so-called the US cpngress and senate....don't be surprised to see for the democrats to jump in and try to block his nomination too... Very sad indeed .

    January 6, 2013 07:15 pm at 7:15 pm |
  17. ned

    We need to work really hard in 2014 to get rid of the GOP in the House and maintain and grow our majority in the Senate. Please vote and tell your friends and family to vote in 2014!! Stay engaged and remind people of Sandy Relief, the Debt Limit threat, lack of any GOP support for sensible gun measures, and a host of other topics that the GOP will not work with the president on. Let's get rid of them in 2014.

    January 6, 2013 07:21 pm at 7:21 pm |
  18. Grace

    Dear Republicans: you do not represent Israel. You represent Americans. I know you're generally inclined to grind America into the dust if it serves your ideological concerns to do so (debt limit, filibustering, generally being obstructionist jerks), but to blatantly position a FOREIGN COUNTRY above American interests? Enough.

    Israel is not America. I don't get to kneecap the Knesset every time they approve more settlements, there's no reason on earth that Republicans should wail and collapse if even the slightest skepticism about Israel's actions is voiced. WE ARE NOT ISRAELIS, and Israelis are not Americans. Deal with it.

    January 6, 2013 07:24 pm at 7:24 pm |
  19. BelladonnaCove

    We need Hagel so the U.S. can take a more active stance against Israel.

    January 6, 2013 07:26 pm at 7:26 pm |
  20. jane

    If Obama says UP...The Repubs will say down......If Obama says cold.....The Repubs will say hot.....If Obama says sun.....The Repubs will say rain.....GET THE PICTURE!

    January 6, 2013 07:26 pm at 7:26 pm |
  21. BelladonnaCove

    If Hagel is anti- Israel; maybe the U.S can finally be against Israel.

    January 6, 2013 07:27 pm at 7:27 pm |
  22. jane

    2014....Lets Get RID Of These LOSERS!!!!!

    January 6, 2013 07:31 pm at 7:31 pm |
  23. Jim

    There is ni candidate these guys wouldn't oppose. It ridiculous.

    January 6, 2013 07:42 pm at 7:42 pm |
  24. William House

    And this is another good reason to reform the filibuster: GOP bigotry and obstruction.

    January 6, 2013 07:43 pm at 7:43 pm |
  25. bereasonable2

    Why do repubs love Israel? Answer: they don't; they just need to oppose the black guy......

    Personally, I see Graham and McCain as the "Palins of 2013" Losers with no reason to do the things they do except ensure gridlock while they get their TV time......

    January 6, 2013 07:46 pm at 7:46 pm |
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