Republicans continued their attacks on Chuck Hagel on Sunday, but they also signaled that the former Republican senator from Nebraska will probably be confirmed as Defense secretary.
“I’m confident that Sen. Hagel will probably have the votes necessary to be confirmed as secretary of Defense,” Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., said on “Meet the Press.”
However, McCain said he would not be among those voting to confirm Hagel. After Republicans blocked a vote last week, the Senate will take up Hagel’s nomination again next week.
“I don’t believe he is qualified,” McCain said, “but I don’t believe that we should hold up his nomination any further.”
Senate Republicans have had numerous questions about Hagel’s stance on Israel and his past challenges to U.S. interventions in the Middle East, including the successful troop surge in Iraq.
Appearing on “Fox News Sunday,” Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., suggested that Hagel had at least put to rest his own questions about reports that Hagel, in a 2007 speech at Rutgers University, had called the State Department an adjunct of the Israeli foreign minister’s office. Hagel wrote to him to say he did not recall making that statement, Graham said.
“The letter said he did not recall saying that, and he disavows that statement,” Graham said. He added: “If in fact that’s true, that ends the matter.”
Graham called Hagel “the most antagonistic senator to the state of Israel in history” and “one of the most unqualified, radical choices for secretary of Defense in a very long time.”
But, he added: “At the end of the day, this is the president’s decision. I give him great discretion.”
The nomination fight, the first to block confirmation for a Defense secretary, has been complicated by ongoing GOP questions about the Sept. 11 attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya. President Barack Obama has still not fully answered questions about why the attack was not immediately characterized as an act of terror, as the administration later confirmed, Republicans say.
“There are many, many questions, and we have had a massive cover-up on the part of the administration,” McCain said.
Also on “Meet the Press,” White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough said the administration has answered a series of questions in 20 briefings and 10,000 pages of documents. He added that the administration has demanded that officials find out what happened and make all changes necessary to ensure the safety of Americans in foreign posts.
“There’s an ongoing effort, and I think we’re making very good progress on that,” he said.
As for Hagel, McDonough said he expects him to be confirmed.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., carries a musket on stage as he speaks during the American Conservative Union's Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) at National Harbor, Md., on Thursday March 6, 2014.