WASHINGTON — A key U.S. lawmaker is predicting eventual Senate confirmation of President Barack Obama’s pick for defense secretary, Chuck Hagel.
Last week, Senate Republicans successfully blocked a confirmation vote on a former colleague, one-time Republican senator Hagel. With Congress in recess this week, Hagel’s nomination remains in limbo. But Republican Senator John McCain, who spearheaded efforts to hold back Hagel’s confirmation, says the delay will end when the Senate reconvenes next week.
“He will be confirmed. We will have a vote when we get back, and I am confident that Senator Hagel will probably have the votes necessary to be confirmed as secretary of defense.”
McCain spoke on NBC’s Meet the Press program.
In a statement, the White House blasted the confirmation delay as a “waste of time” that is “not without consequence.” McCain says senators deserve additional time to consider Hagel before voting on his nomination.
If Republicans allow a final vote after the recess, Hagel’s confirmation would be all-but-assured in the Democratically-controlled Senate. McCain says he will oppose further delays but will not support Hagel in a final vote.
“I do not believe he is qualified. Ninety-nine percent of it has to do with positions Senator Hagel has taken, whether it be votes against sanctions against Iran, whether it be his belief that the [Iraq War] surge would be the worst thing since the Vietnam War.”
The Obama administration has staunchly defended Hagel since the president announced his nomination last month. White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough also appeared on Meet the Press.
“[Hagel] is going to be a great defense secretary. This is a guy who volunteered to go to Vietnam, [was] heavily-decorated while he was there, well-performing while he was there and everything since. He has always done the hard stuff and made it look easy.”
Some Republicans have pressed the White House for additional information concerning last year’s deadly attack at the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, demanding answers before agreeing to a confirmation vote for Hagel. McDonough says the administration has done everything possible to comply.
"Just the other day, our counsel sent a very extensive letter to Capitol Hill in response to a series of questions on Benghazi. That is the latest in 20 briefings and hearings that we have participated in. Ten thousand pages of documents we have provided.”
In addition to Hagel, the confirmation of counter-terrorism advisor John Brennan as CIA director is on hold until the Senate gets back to business next week.