January 6th, 2013
10:41 AM ET
9 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. 21k

    let's see how many of these self-important gop senators who actually served in combat, have the guts to try and lie about hagel in public.

    January 6, 2013 03:20 pm at 3:20 pm |
  2. Floyd from Illinois

    If the GOP has been reduced to obstructing the nomination of one even of their own, then they are finished as a viable national Party.

    January 6, 2013 03:21 pm at 3:21 pm |
  3. Burrito23

    ABC: Not Enough Democratic Support to Confirm Hagel

    January 6, 2013 03:24 pm at 3:24 pm |
  4. aaron

    No way Repubs would want a secretary of defense who tells it like it is. The Jewish lobby does intimidate the politicians, no denying that. And, someone is needed to let Israelis know they won't continue getting massive amounts of aid from the U.S. when they're going to stoke the flames in the Middle East with moving Palestinians out of their homes to make room for Jewish settlers and treating Palestinians like they are animals. Those antics cause massive resentment and retribution, with the U.S. getting dragged into it due to the aid provided and being an ally of Israel, with no repurcussions to the Israelis no matter how badly they behave.

    January 6, 2013 03:26 pm at 3:26 pm |
  5. Mark D

    Is there anything in Hagel's statement that is remotely false??

    January 6, 2013 03:28 pm at 3:28 pm |
  6. Norm

    I wonder if the day wil ever come that USA policy and government isn't dictated by Israel.
    Just one word against this tiny piece of land can ruin a man's carreer.
    I think thats quite odd.

    January 6, 2013 03:30 pm at 3:30 pm |
  7. waheid

    I question why United States senators are so inclined to outrage over this nomination. The issue seems to be the depth of Sen. Hagel's commitment to Israel. It is important to note that he is not being nominated as SecDef for the sovereign state of Israel, but for the United States. I naively thought that foreign policy of the U.S. was determined in Washington, not Tel Aviv. (Apparently the GOP thinks otherwise.) I should also note that Hagel voluntarily served in combat during the Vietnam War. Can Sen. Graham or any of his cronies (other than McCain) make the same claim? Of course not.

    January 6, 2013 03:33 pm at 3:33 pm |
  8. Vern

    If you want to know all you need to know about why the GOP is so far out to pasture, it's that they want to fight the nomination of ONE OF THEIR OWN for SecDef!! The guy was considered, by many Republicans, for years, one of the experts on foreign affairs, but now that he's up for the nomination, they don't want him! Why? That's easy. Because Barack Obama does want him.

    The GOP STILL hasn't gotten the message from the November election: the American people are tired of this kind of crap. They want to move forward. They want a smarter government, and they don't want the GOP simply acting like Washington's version of Honey Boo Boo, and being spoiled brats.

    January 6, 2013 03:34 pm at 3:34 pm |
  9. Southern Man

    Some senators from the south are never happy......and we do not need to rubber stamp everything Israel does!

    January 6, 2013 03:35 pm at 3:35 pm |
  10. Edwin

    The GOP will block EVERYTHING that Obama proposes, not because they disagree with it but because they still want him to fail. I think many of them still think they can retroactively keep him to a one term presidency, by blocking every person, every bill, every action he takes. They don't realize, I think, that they are hurting themselves far more than they hurt Obama.

    At some point the GOP will have a legitimate reason to block a piece of Obama's plans... but by then the public will no longer believe the GOP is capable of *having* legitimate reasons for doing anything.

    January 6, 2013 03:36 pm at 3:36 pm |
  11. Don

    The GOP has no strategy, just obstruction, which is childless. They couldn't lead anyone at this point. What a joke they have become. The Tea Party ruined the GOP, forever. Now, they are living in the past, have no real good ideas and seriously hurting the country.

    January 6, 2013 03:37 pm at 3:37 pm |
  12. sologosb

    Who the hell do these republicans think they are? They are wasting yet more time and money with this type of talk – and dragging their feet on another confirmation. If they waste time on things like this, the fiscal matters will never be resolved.

    January 6, 2013 03:37 pm at 3:37 pm |
  13. The Film Professor

    So who does Lindsey Graham expect Obama to nominate? Dick Armey? Dick Cheney?

    January 6, 2013 03:39 pm at 3:39 pm |
  14. Tony Karais

    Blah blah blah blah........Wow! The Republicans are against something the President is doing? Go figure. This is insanity on their part. There's a saying that if you stand for everything you stand for nothing. In the case the Republicans against everything and stand for nothing.

    January 6, 2013 03:40 pm at 3:40 pm |
  15. Logic N LA

    Obviously our own Congress doesn't know what the Secretary of Defense does- he overseas the military. He does not make foreign policy ( that's the President) nor does he work with foriegn governments( that's the Secretary of state) If the man has strong knowledge of the military workings, he would be a good choice. At least he was beaten in an election by a dead man- (see Bush's cabinet choices)

    January 6, 2013 03:41 pm at 3:41 pm |
  16. iSuggest

    This will be a nice Yarn ball for House GOP cats to tangle in, and suffocate from their own arrogance.

    January 6, 2013 03:41 pm at 3:41 pm |
  17. Pete

    I love how some of these tea party republicans are just silly surrogates for their tea party masters..Voicing that now Pres.Obama wants Hagel and all of a sudden the republicans can't say anything positive about him,nice collegues ha!!Well its business as usual republicans railing against anything the president says or offers but midterms can't come fast enough and all your past will definitly come back to haunt you won't it,enjoy because 2014 can't be that positive for yah either can it!!

    January 6, 2013 03:42 pm at 3:42 pm |
  18. Rhonda Rahn

    Let's vote the Republicans OUT of the House in 2014. They are the extremist party of NO. Let's say NO to their NO.

    January 6, 2013 03:45 pm at 3:45 pm |
  19. Dave R.

    The GOP's wheels WILL fall off in '14 when the GOP extremists are voted OUT OF OFFICE. Most of cannot wait until that mappens. We are all sick and tired of these politically initiated wars that do nothing but harm the country.

    January 6, 2013 03:45 pm at 3:45 pm |
  20. Ryan

    The neocons hate him....

    that all I need to know to give Hagel my full support

    January 6, 2013 03:46 pm at 3:46 pm |
  21. Olaf Big

    A bold and very smart move on Obama's part! Watch the GOP continue on the path of self-destruction. As for Israel, Hagel is no enemy of Israel, but the primary responsibility of the US Secretary of Defense is the security of the United States, not the interests of Israel, and this two are not always aligned.

    January 6, 2013 03:48 pm at 3:48 pm |
  22. privateergm

    So McConnell basically confirmed Hagels "Jewish Lobby" statement with his stating that any defense secretary has to be vetted about our close relationship with Isreal.
    Pretty well sums that up. So Hagel told the truth.

    January 6, 2013 03:48 pm at 3:48 pm |
  23. John Uzbek

    These Republican are very strange indeed, now they want to attack one of their own again, they are people (a loose term)without honor, and they are self destructing because they are too extreme. The Tea Party faction is the worst of the party. Also, at least twice in the past three months the party has either forgotten or not come to the aid their own. Governor Chris Christy is correct for being very distraught with them, then to allow only a fraction of the money needed. I believe their move was petty retaliation against Governor Christy because the man had enough sense to put politics aside to meet with President Obama during a crisis and show some praise and respect towards President Obama I think Governor Christy should align himself with the Democratic party. However that's probably will not happen. As for the non working aspect of congress, what does the public expect? We have two parties controlling the different houses of congress and the Republicans are acting like the proverbial brat that is fighting to get their way. Yes, they do have a point that spending needs to be curtailed but not on social programs. We spend roughly 25 of our GDP on defense to police the world, the republican argue it's for the defense of this country. People, there are only two times in history that our country was invaded, 12/07/1941 and 09/11/200. Now how is policing the world defending our physical country. It isn't, our military is protecting the monetary interest of our businesses ran by the uber rich and their republican friends. Want an example? In Freeport, IL Sensata Technologies announced that it was closing its Freeport plant by the end of 2012 and shipping the jobs to China. Now, how I ask you, that Bain Capital, associated with Romney, would send the company to a country that has a government that is counter to the ideas of U.S. democracy. Here's the answer and it ties in to our military spending, it's to promote and protect the monetary interest of the uber rich. Truthfully, it's amazing that the governments of all of the countries can be in conflict while corporate negotiations are smooth. Chinese government against U.S. government but at the corporate level no problem. What gives on that? Go ask the people at Sensata what they think of that. While the Chinese were over there being trained to work the machines and pack them up to go to China. The American flag outside was removed for two weeks while the Chinese flag was flown. These was done as to "not insult the Chinese employee." The whole point of outsourcing is concentrate the wealth to the uber rich. Do some research on the internet and do some deep thinking as well. Why outsource, cheap labor equals more wealth. Also, the people left behind become content with less because less is all they can get, since that is all that is left. Again, research this for yourself. The uber rich as seen their wealth grow twelve times while the median income for the working class has fallen by $800 annually, from $33,800 to $33,000, and health benefits have been stripped. I could go on but I think I given enough to start with. Go research and reason out what you read.

    January 6, 2013 03:49 pm at 3:49 pm |
  24. Gregory L. Faith

    Now the cat and mouse games come into the political picture in Washington because beating down doors does not work any more.

    January 6, 2013 03:50 pm at 3:50 pm |
  25. Randy, San Francisco

    Hagel may as well join the Democratic Party. The GOP/Tea Party is ready to vote no on his nomination and purge him from the party. So much for the rebranding of the GOP/Tea Party...business as usual.

    January 6, 2013 04:00 pm at 4:00 pm |
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