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Durbin: Hagel has Dems support so far

WASHINGTON, Jan. 29 (UPI) — U.S. Senate Majority Whip Richard Durbin said Democrats, so far, indicated they wouldn’t oppose ex-Sen. Chuck Hagel’s confirmation as defense secretary.

However, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said Monday he would block Hagel’s nomination unless Defense Secretary Leon Panetta testifies before Congress on the Sept. 11, 2012, attack on the U.S. mission in Benghazi, Libya.

Hagel, a Nebraska Republican whose nomination has drawn criticism from Republicans, will appear before the Senate Armed Services Committee Thursday for what is expected to be a testy confirmation hearing, Roll Call reported Tuesday.

Hagel is expected to win the committee’s approval before facing a floor vote in the Senate, where he must receive 60 votes to be confirmed. If he wins Senate approval, Hagel would succeed Panetta.

Republican aides indicated Hagel is expected to get the votes needed to prevent a filibuster, Roll Call said.

“We did whip it. And the numbers were very positive on the Democratic side,” Durbin said of a preliminary count his office did last week among the Democratic Conference’s 55 members, adding later, “There were no ‘no’ votes. There were some who wanted to wait until after his testimony.”

Graham, who sits on the Senate Armed Services Committee, told Fox News he wanted to ask Panetta why no military assets were available when the facility was attacked, The Hill reported.

Panetta has said intelligence was not sufficiently conclusive to warrant sending military assets to the region.

Graham said his committee vote on Hagel’s nomination would depend on what Hagel says during the nomination hearing, The Hill reported.

One debate surrounding Hagel centered on comments he made about the “Jewish lobby” and concerns among some conservative critics he may not be sufficiently pro-Israel. Some Republicans also have expressed worry about his position on engagement with Iran.

Public support from prominent Jewish Democrats, including Sens. Charles Schumer of New York and Barbara Boxer of California, helped ease Democratic concerns, Roll Call said.

Copyright 2013 United Press International, Inc. (UPI).

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