WASHINGTON, Feb. 18 (UPI) — Two top Senate Republicans said they will no longer hold up Senate confirmation for defense secretary nominee Chuck Hagel even though they find him unsuitable.
“No, I don’t believe he is qualified,” Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., told NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “But I don’t believe that we should hold up his nomination any further because I think it’s a reasonable amount of time to have questions answered.”
McCain said the Senate will vote on Hagel’s nomination when it returns from recess, “and I am confident that Senator Hagel will probably have the votes necessary to be confirmed.”
Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C. — who along with McCain spearheaded a move to block Hagel and was among a majority of Senate Republicans who backed a filibuster Thursday when Hagel’s nomination came to a vote — told “Fox News Sunday” he would stop opposing Hagel because the former GOP senator from Nebraska disavowed comments he allegedly made in 2007.
Hagel allegedly said during a talk at New Jersey’s Rutgers University the U.S. State Department was an adjunct of the Israeli Foreign Ministry.
“I got a letter back from Senator Hagel in response to my question, ‘Did you say that, and do you believe that?’ And the letter says he did not recall saying that,” Graham told the program. “He disavowed that statement.”
“So I’ll just take him at his word unless something new comes along,” Graham said.
Echoing McCain’s comments, Graham called Hagel “one of the most unqualified, radical choices for secretary of defense in a very long time.”
“But at the end of the day, this is the president’s decision,” Graham said. “I give him great discretion.”
The Thursday filibuster — the first time in history the Senate required a defense secretary nominee to clear a 60-vote hurdle before facing a final, simple majority vote — forced Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., to set up another vote Feb. 26.
With Democrats in the majority, Hagel is widely expected to win Senate confirmation.
Hagel has been broadly criticized by former GOP colleagues over his positions on Iran, Iraq and Israel.
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