Obama to Name Hagel as Defense Secretary
President Barack Obama will name former Republican Senator Chuck Hagel to be his defense secretary. Some sources say that the president will give his announcement on Monday. The nomination will set up a confirmation battle in the Senate over whether the former Nebraska senator and Vietnam veteran is a strong enough supporter of important US ally Israel and his past calls for military cuts.
The Obama administration backed down from a Senate confirmation battle over Susan Rice, who was President Obama’s first pick to replace Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Rice withdrew her name from consideration after she was criticized by republicans for her remarks in the aftermath of a September 11 attack on the US mission in Benghazi, Libya. The president then named Massachusetts Democratic Senator John Kerry for the position.
The White House is certain that it can overcome the criticisms regarding Hagel’s record and get enough votes from both sides of the political spectrum to get his nomination through committee and win confirmation in the Democratic-controlled Senate.
According to sources, Hagel got high-level messages of reassurance that his nomination was on track despite all the things critics have said to derail it. President Obama will reveal his pick for CIA director who will replace David Petraeus. The retired general resigned in November after his extramarital affair with his biographer was made public.
Some prominent Republicans have voiced their opposition to Hagel’s nomination. Republican lawmakers made it clear that he would face a tough nomination process. Most Republicans contend that Hagel opposed Israel’s interests. He voted several times against US sanctions on Iran and made disparaging statements about the influence of what he described as Jewish lobby in Washington.
Hagel has also been critical about the size of the American military. He told the Financial Times in 2011 that the Defense Department was bloated and needed to be trimmed down.