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. JM

    What else is new? Republicans are nuts. Same story; different day.

    January 6, 2013 07:52 pm at 7:52 pm |
  2. GOP Hater

    Appointing cabinet is President's authority... Senate can advise and consent !!! Nothing more!!! and Obama is the president!!!

    Where are the constitutional purists!! from GOP!!!

    January 6, 2013 07:52 pm at 7:52 pm |
  3. independent

    They eat their own.

    January 6, 2013 08:02 pm at 8:02 pm |
  4. Bill Davenport

    Chuck Hagel is a Republican who puts the interests of the United States over the interests of his party. Good for him, I say. If there were more members of the GOP like him, the party wouldn't be quite so marginalized.

    January 6, 2013 08:09 pm at 8:09 pm |
  5. mike johnson

    ... I did not realize that there is some sort of a pre-confirmation Israel litmus test a nominee has to pass prior to the actual hearings.

    January 6, 2013 08:14 pm at 8:14 pm |
  6. mike johnson

    ... and of course ... the CNN Central Scrutinizer is up and about today ... pathetic

    January 6, 2013 08:16 pm at 8:16 pm |
  7. Daedalus

    The GOP has turned into a latter-day Donner Party... just feasting on the bones of their own people. It's amusing, but a little sad at the same time to see them pick so many obviously losing fights that only work to diminish what credibility they had left.

    January 6, 2013 08:22 pm at 8:22 pm |
  8. wcnea567

    Obama in his second term wouldn't have any easier time dealing with Republicans in congress than in his first term. This time around they would try to make his second term a lot more h**lish than his first. If at all possible they'll make his accomplishment zero or even negative. And we the people pay for it.

    January 6, 2013 08:22 pm at 8:22 pm |
  9. tewksburybob

    Hagel will be vetted but an obvious poor choice. I doubt he will pass scrutiny. Another ploy by an inept President trying to deflect attention from his overspending.

    January 6, 2013 08:37 pm at 8:37 pm |
  10. Republicans Are The American Taliban

    The Taliban hates America!

    January 6, 2013 08:45 pm at 8:45 pm |
  11. Greenspam

    Republicans vouch to spend tens of millions to investigate Hagel thoroughly and at the same time say that spending done by Obama's WH is out of control.

    January 6, 2013 08:53 pm at 8:53 pm |
  12. Amy

    This fits Obama's soft stand against Iran, practically allowing them to develop nukes. We will suffer forever because we voted in a President who is incompetent in international strategy.

    January 6, 2013 08:57 pm at 8:57 pm |
  13. cgire

    Wait, wait...is the Republican nominee for Defense Secretary? Is this President Romney's Defense Secretary?


    So, unless Hagen is an axe murderer, why would the Republican congress want to make this appointment an issue? This is Mr. Obama's staff member. Republicans should butt out unless Mr. Hagen is completely unqualified.

    January 6, 2013 09:01 pm at 9:01 pm |
  14. Phil T. Listener

    Everything the GOP did in the President's first term was "in your face" to him.
    Now they deserve, and I sure hope he gives it to them, the same treatment.

    Remember, we (the people) spoke, and we won.

    January 6, 2013 09:07 pm at 9:07 pm |
  15. Paul Williamson

    Time for beddy-bye for those cranky old white Senators such Linsey Graham and John McCain, they are living back in the 60's..

    January 6, 2013 09:18 pm at 9:18 pm |
  16. Tony in Maine

    Hagel spoke the truth, that upsets IAPAC and so Hagel is unacceptable. The Israel lobby is far too powerful. The US is NOT a provider of mercenaries. Our foreign policy should be action taken in our interests, not the interest of any other country. Attacking Syria or Iran is not in our best interest. Should it become so, may God ave mercy on them.

    Hagel has done nothing illegal or immoral and those criteria should be the sole concern of the Senate in confirming any cabinet choice.

    I am way more liberal than President Obama – think Bernie Sanders – and IMO, if President Obama wants Hagel, he should have Hagel.

    January 6, 2013 09:33 pm at 9:33 pm |
  17. rs1201

    Obama is showing his true colors...he's an anti semite...an anti-Israel President. The democrats will pay for that in 2014. I predict that democrats up for reelection will soon be distancing themselves from the White House.

    January 6, 2013 09:39 pm at 9:39 pm |
  18. Larry L


    @IvotedforObama...try a new rap. The race card is tired.
    ================================================================================================ Complaints about racism has always been "tiring" for racists. Do you recall the signs, chants and bumper stickers we saw from the Tea Party in 2012? Read the comments posted on these political sites. Racism is alive in well and your willingness to speak out against the "race card" is likely results of another old racist trying to deny reality.

    January 6, 2013 09:56 pm at 9:56 pm |
  19. LiberalandProud

    Yolanda: @IvotedforObama is absolutely correct.........The race card maybe tired but it never goes away. How else do you explain this constant juvenile GOP behavior. They are willing to bring down the government to make this man fail. It's' getting old and yes, it is very tired.

    January 6, 2013 10:15 pm at 10:15 pm |
  20. 21k

    at this point, oby should just push his nominees in the press, and let the gop hang themselves. he's got nothing to lose, and he could probably get senator turtle to wet himself pretty easily.

    January 6, 2013 10:16 pm at 10:16 pm |
  21. Gerry Daley

    Of course they oppose him. He was nominated by Presdient Obama. It doesn't matter what Obama does. Their hate isn't based on policy. It is personal. The best way to enact a sensible gun policy would be for the president to advocate weapons for everyone, no restrictions at all. The crazy GOP racists, aka The Tea Party, would be *for* gun control in a New York minute.

    January 6, 2013 10:21 pm at 10:21 pm |
  22. w5cdt

    GOP = party of NO. no matter what.

    January 6, 2013 10:24 pm at 10:24 pm |
  23. Chooch0253

    Nothing new. Republicans have opposed almost anything that Obama has proposed. The only thing they have not opposed that I know of is Sen Kerry as Sec. of State. Same old Republican party and philosophy is not really news.

    January 6, 2013 10:27 pm at 10:27 pm |
  24. Dan

    Hagel clearly does not have an understanding of the Middle East and the strategic significance that Israel plays into our global goals. Further if people in his own party don't want him in this role it's very clear that the guy will be a problem.

    Further Obama should know better but it won't Fe the first or last mistake he has made in his nominations...Susan Rice....

    January 6, 2013 10:31 pm at 10:31 pm |
  25. John

    So, as usual, anything Obama says, wants, or supports, the Tea Party obstructionists oppose, even if it's one of their own ideas or one of their own party. I hope their constituents vote these crackpots out of office next year.

    January 6, 2013 10:39 pm at 10:39 pm |
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