Hagel Would Get ‘Hard Questions’ from Republican Senators

Former Senator Chuck Hagel would be a “challenging nomination” for Secretary of Defense, a key Republican senator said.

“The Republicans are going to ask him hard questions, and I don’t think he’s going to get many Republican votes,” Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, a member of the Armed Services Committee, said yesterday on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “I think it would be a challenging nomination.”

Graham said Hagel’s positions “are really out of the mainstream and well to the left of the president.”

Hagel, 66, a former Republican senator from Nebraska and decorated Vietnam War veteran, is under consideration by President Barack Obama to succeed Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, White House officials have said on condition of anonymity in advance of a decision.

Senate Democrats have declined to endorse Hagel, saying they would wait until he was formally nominated to evaluate him. “Until that point, I think we’re not going to know what’s going to happen,” said Charles Schumer of New York, the No. 3 Senate Democratic leader said on NBC.

Opposition to a Hagel nomination has developed due to his comments opposing the troop surge during the Iraq war, questioning economic sanctions against Iran and citing the influence of the “Jewish lobby.”

Hagel has apologized for his 1998 statements about James Hormel, who was appointed ambassador to Luxembourg by President Bill Clinton. Hagel questioned whether an “openly, aggressively gay” person could properly represent the U.S. abroad. Hagel said on Dec. 21 that those comments were “insensitive.”

Retiring Senator Joe Lieberman, a Connecticut independent, said on CNN’s “State of the Union” that he would have “some really serious questions” to ask Hagel about his positions on Israel and Iran.

“I think this will be a very tough confirmation process,” he said. “I don’t know how it would end but there are reasonable questions to ask and that Chuck Hagel will have to answer.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Jonathan D. Salant in Washington at jsalant@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Jeanne Cummings at jcummings21@bloomberg.net.

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