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. Kevin

    It's true, all the Republicans are willing to do is say "no." Make yourselves useful or get out of the way.

    January 6, 2013 04:01 pm at 4:01 pm |
  2. pkrbkr

    Republicans just love to counter anything President Obama says or proposes......it's disgusting and the American people are getting tired of the Rs obstructionism! Chuch Hagel deserves to be Secretary of Defense and should be confirmed immediately! Get over it, Republicans, YOU LOST BIG! Now get on with the business of the country and stop nitpicking!

    January 6, 2013 04:04 pm at 4:04 pm |
  3. dennis

    Let me get this straight. President Obama may nominate a Republican former two-term senator from the red state of Nebraska as US Defense Secretary. A Viet Nam vet awarded two purple heart medals for his combat service. And Lindsey Graham claims this would be an "in your face nomination"? Give me a frickin' break!

    January 6, 2013 04:07 pm at 4:07 pm |
  4. RichardD

    A President has the privilege of appointing whomever (s)he wishes to any cabinet post. The responsibility of the senate is to make sure that nominee is not guilty of a serious crime or some other condition that would prevent that nominee from serving the President responsibly. The nominee's particular political history and political opinions, especially those of many years ago, should have no bearing on the approval. I didn't see the Democrats refusing to approve the nomination of Donald Rumsfeld, a probable war criminal for his responsibility in the death of over 4000 American service members and countless innocent civilians in the immoral Iraq war. I hope the un-American irresponsible Republicans in the Senate realize that their refusal to approve Mr. Hagel might come back to bite them in the future if the Americans are so ignorant as to elect another Republican as President. And, no, I don't think Mr. Hagel is the best nominee Pres. Obama could have made for this office, but that is his business.

    January 6, 2013 04:08 pm at 4:08 pm |
  5. Jimmy

    Thank God for the Tea Party and GOP.

    January 6, 2013 04:14 pm at 4:14 pm |
  6. Kane

    Wait, what country did these senators make their oath to again? The US or Israel?

    January 6, 2013 04:15 pm at 4:15 pm |
  7. real american

    Its good to see the GOP standing up for what is right. Dear progressives – besides being a jew hater, why do you support his nomination? The left has become so disgusting- bunch of anti-semites.

    January 6, 2013 04:16 pm at 4:16 pm |
  8. IvotedforObama

    They are haters hating on the black man and that is why they fight him all the time.

    January 6, 2013 04:26 pm at 4:26 pm |
  9. retired2001

    It seems all the Republicans know what to do is to fight everything! What a waste of time and money and not getting the governing and managing the debt/budget, etc. taken care of while they say NO, NO, NO to absolutely everything. We surely are seeing governing by the minority and then people get upset when "Obama doesn't get things done." If there wasn't quite so much naysaying from the opposition more and better governing would take place. They could learn from the past about "debate" rather than "a line in the sand." I am so disappointed with what has happened to the United States and the divisiveness instead of the "common good" and what is best for the citizens instead of special interests.

    January 6, 2013 04:29 pm at 4:29 pm |
  10. Billy davis

    No matter who the President nominates the angry white men will oppose them.

    January 6, 2013 04:31 pm at 4:31 pm |
  11. Todd

    Its awesome when President Obama gives them a nomination that if Bush gave them they would confirmin 5 seconds. Now they will dig for excuses not to confirm him...LOL. The president is like 500 times smarter than any republican in congress and he's dismanteling them little by little. I Love IT

    January 6, 2013 04:31 pm at 4:31 pm |
  12. retired2001

    Do the Republicans know how to do anything other than say NO, NO, NO. Can't they try to learn how to debate and govern instead of sitting on their side of "the line in the sand" and saying "my way or the highway". We are being "governed by the minority" and "let the majority be d___ed". A democracy is supposed to be governed by the majority,not the minority. If they could just learn to "debate" and at the end of the debate make a decision (where they might have to compromise – on both sides), perhaps the United States could have a Congress that has better than 12% approval. Maybe then they could work on solutions to jobs, the debt, etc., but when there is a line that no one dare cross and they have pledged their allegiance not to the United States (as it says in their oath of office), but they have pledged to a single individual who is a lobbyist when it comes to money matters. Let all elected officials learn to work together instead of the divided country we have become where there is no middle ground or concern for "the common good" as stated by the "founding fathers". We are a broken country as long as our politicians are at each other's throats. All the R's want to do is argue, argue, argue, and let the minority defeat the majority!

    January 6, 2013 04:38 pm at 4:38 pm |
  13. thomas1

    Wow. Since when did Isreal become part of our Natl. defense?

    January 6, 2013 04:42 pm at 4:42 pm |
  14. jester55

    Remember 2014 is comming soon!!!!

    January 6, 2013 04:43 pm at 4:43 pm |
  15. Bib Boogg

    There was a backlash against Sen Hagel from the LBGT community on his past record. You should google it.

    January 6, 2013 04:43 pm at 4:43 pm |
  16. A.C.

    Wow. Apparently, Republicans are now not even above eating their own. Maybe Obama should come out and nominate Graham, McCain, or McConnell for something and see how quickly those guys get piled on by their GOP "colleagues"...

    January 6, 2013 04:44 pm at 4:44 pm |
  17. Bib Boogg

    Soon we will have 1 party rule. Then ruled by the UN. Part of the plan. Hope y'all like it.

    January 6, 2013 04:46 pm at 4:46 pm |
  18. AgrippaMT

    Anyoone who can help rein in the racist state of Israel is a good candidate for Secretary of Defense.

    January 6, 2013 04:49 pm at 4:49 pm |
  19. GonzoinHouston

    I'm sure the GOP's concerns about Hagel and Israel have nothing to do with the fact that Sheldon Adelson gave $100 million to various republican groups in the last election, and Adelson's chief concern is Israel.

    January 6, 2013 04:50 pm at 4:50 pm |
  20. yolanda

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

    January 6, 2013 04:50 pm at 4:50 pm |
  21. JohnRJohnson

    Lindsay Graham needs to stay off television for a while. It's becoming a little obvious that he is desperate for coverage.

    January 6, 2013 04:58 pm at 4:58 pm |
  22. James Klimaski

    The Republican attack on Chuck Hagel shows their complete lack of seriousness in cutting the Federal budget. They only want to cut items which benefit the poor and the working people. The weapons makers will continue to make things of no benefit to our country. We need roads and bridges and railroads and health care. The Republicans simply want guns.

    January 6, 2013 04:59 pm at 4:59 pm |
  23. mark

    Just say no to everything and life will be good

    January 6, 2013 05:03 pm at 5:03 pm |
  24. Claudia, Houston, Tx

    LEAD FOLLOW OR GET THE H OUT OF THE WAY. I'm about as sick of Graham, McCain and McConnell as I can be, they are old, tired and obstructive white men who are afraid of the changing World around them, their time is up, they have no value. None of them have been promoted to any higher level of Government because their only qualifications are to obstruct, we don't have time for old grouchy white men, we must move FORWARD.

    January 6, 2013 05:08 pm at 5:08 pm |
  25. Reeaaally

    It really doesn't matter what The President does, the republicans will fight him tooth and nail, all the way. If he had a solution that would fix this country tomorrow, they would vote against it! There has never been this level of obstructionism in the history of our country.

    They (republicans) will do the same as they have done the past four years. No bill will get passed that is good for the US of A. I have to wonder, will they continue this way until they get a republican president, or until they get a "white" president.

    This is really outrageous! We need to do something to keep our country strong. The republicans are destroying us. What they don't realize is, they are destroying themselves. The question is, can we survive it?

    All of us "middle class" and poor know how to make ends meet. We can live off of very little, and still be happy! Can these wealthy people? Maybe we need to let them bring our country to the brink of collapse, where they are actually affected. Let's see what they are willing to do without to survive! Maybe, that will wake them up.

    Of course, our country would be in great trouble, but hey, let's play their game!!!

    WHAT CAN WE DO? We can't have another 4 years of this!!!!

    January 6, 2013 05:09 pm at 5:09 pm |
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