Hagel did ‘fine job’ at confirmation hearing, White House says

The White House on Friday defended Chuck Hagel’s widely-panned performance at his Thursday confirmation hearing before the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee, arguing that the former Nebraska GOP senator “did a fine job” and that his congressional opponents were overly aggressive in their questioning of him.

“In terms of the hearing itself, what struck me was the stridency of some of the questioning from Republican critics, his former colleagues, the focus on a war that this president ended over which we can all agree there is disagreement,” White House Press Secretary Jay Carney told reporters at the daily news briefing.

He later added: “If you take all the news clips — not the whole performance — but the news clips that have dominated television reporting on this, they have focused on a series of exchanges that, I think, by any estimation largely represent badgering by questioners over issues like, you know, ‘Why did you disagree with me over Iraq?’ ”

Hagel appeared before the committee for roughly eight hours, during which he appeared unprepared for the withering criticism he faced from senators regarding his previous remarks, Senate votes and positions on topics ranging from the U.S. relationship with Israel to the U.S. nuclear arsenal.

The number of GOP senators voicing their opposition to Hagel increased Thursday and Friday. But the White House maintains that in the end, as long as no Hagel opponents attempt to filibuster his nomination, the Nebraska Republican will secure the 50 votes needed for confirmation in the Democratic-led Senate.

“There’s no indication that this is peeling off any support that was there before today,” a White House official told The Washington Post on Thursday.

"There's no question that there will be more than 50 votes to confirm Senator Hagel," White House Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer said in a Bloomberg News interview Friday. "I would be disappointed and surprised if the Republicans were willing to filibuster one of their former colleagues for the secretary of defense."

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Sean Sullivan · February 1, 2013