President Obama on Monday nominated Chuck Hagel as defense secretary. The former Nebraska senator will have to be confirmed by the Senate, and a fight is expected. Although he's a Republican, Hagel has many opponents in the GOP, and there has been controversy over his past views on gay rights and his position on Iran.
Hearings will be held by the Senate Armed Services Committee. Here's how U.S. senators on and off the committee are lining up on the nomination.
Supporting Hagel's nomination:
Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich), chairman, Senate Armed Services Committee:
Senator Hagel is well qualified to serve as secretary of defense with his broad experience in national security affairs. He was a decorated soldier and an effective member of the Senate, and he is a strong advocate for the men and women of our military. The Armed Services Committee will give prompt and careful consideration to Senator Hagel’s nomination for this critical position.
Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.), SASC member:
Chuck Hagel will make an outstanding Secretary of Defense. He is highly qualified and his record of service to this country as a decorated combat veteran, successful CEO, senator, and statesman is extraordinary.
Chuck is a man of uncommon independence and integrity. Chuck Hagel’s candor, judgment, and expertise will serve him well as our next Secretary of Defense.
I fully support his confirmation.
Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.):
I applaud President Obama for his thoughtful choices to head the Pentagon and the CIA. I’ve worked extensively with these two nominees and have always found them to be men of integrity and dedication. Both will be effective leaders in the positions to which they have been nominated.
Senator Hagel has a deep understanding of the national security establishment, which grew out of his experiences as a decorated war veteran, a former member of the Senate’s Foreign Relations and Intelligence Committees, and a member of the President’s Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board. Few nominees have such a combination of strategic and personal knowledge of our national defense needs.
Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.):
On the Appropriations Committee those of us charged with handling the Senate’s work on the Pentagon budget will have to make more than a hundred billion dollars in cuts to begin with, and it will be good to work with someone like Chuck Hagel who can lead the Pentagon during a difficult time of transition.
He is a combat veteran who still carries shrapnel in his body from his wounds – he will not need on-the-job training. I will support his nomination with enthusiasm, and I have passed that on to the President.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.):
I am pleased to support Chuck Hagel to be the next Secretary of Defense. I served with Senator Hagel during his two terms in the U.S. Senate—including his service on the Senate Intelligence Committee from 2003-2008. I found him to be a knowledgeable and independent voice with a strong grasp of the pressing national security issues facing our country. In addition to his service in the Senate, Senator Hagel has co-chaired the President’s Intelligence Advisory Board and served with distinction as a sergeant in the U.S. Army where he earned two Purple Hearts.
I strongly believe that a president is entitled to his cabinet selections unless there is something in an individual’s record or background that is disqualifying. As Secretary of Defense, Senator Hagel will implement the administration’s policies in Afghanistan and around the world, and will be responsible for managing the Department of Defense in an era of reduced spending. I look forward to supporting him during the confirmation process.
Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.V.):
Chuck Hagel has a long and distinguished career dealing with intelligence and military issues. As a war hero and Vietnam veteran, he understands firsthand the needs of our troops on the ground. During his time in the Senate, I worked with him very closely on the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. I deeply respect the integrity, thoughtfulness, and independence that he brought to intelligence oversight. He always held the Intelligence Community to the highest standards and never shirked the duty to take on tough issues.
Chuck also led a very successful company for 15 years, and this type of management experience coupled with his extensive knowledge of intelligence issues would be invaluable at the Pentagon, particularly as we work to get the nation’s budget and the Defense Department’s budget under control in smart, targeted ways.
He is a true patriot who doesn’t act based on political ideology, but in the best interest of the country. This is the type of proven leader we need at the Defense Department.
I sincerely thank Secretary Panetta for his service to the country, at the Defense Department, CIA, and many other distinguished posts he has held throughout his remarkable career in service to our country. And I hope the Senate will act quickly to approve Chuck Hagel to fill this position.
Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mo.):
“As a decorated war hero and an experienced military strategist, Chuck Hagel is a smart choice to lead America’s military and to guide our defense strategy in the critical years ahead. Senator Hagel is a strong, independent voice that I respected greatly when we served together in the Senate. I look forward to his leadership at the Pentagon.”
Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), SASC member:
— Senator Roger Wicker (@SenatorWicker) January 6, 2013
Senate Minority Whip. John Cornyn (R-Tex.):
I will not support Chuck Hagel’s nomination to the Department of Defense. His record and past statements,... fb.me/2EXHk08yw
— JohnCornyn (@JohnCornyn) January 6, 2013
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.), SASC member, on 'Fox News Sunday':
If Hagel is nominated, it is very difficult to imagine a circumstance in which I could support his nomination.
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), SASC member:
During these dangerous times there is no more important Cabinet position than Secretary of Defense. I fear his views, particularly towards Iran, send the worst possible signal at the worst time to the Iranians, our Israeli allies, and the world.
Sen. David Vitter (R-La.), SASC member:
I'll be a no vote on the Armed Services Committee and on the floor. Given Chuck Hagel’s statements and actions on a nuclear Iran, Hamas, and Hezbollah, I think his confirmation would send exactly the wrong message to our allies and enemies alike. Israel, our strongest ally in the region, is dealing with a lot of threat and uncertainty right now; Hagel would make that even much worse.
Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) on "Face the Nation" on Dec. 30:
I cannot vote for Chuck Hagel... He does not have the experience to manage a very large organization like the Pentagon.
Sen. Claire McCaskill, (D-Mo.), SASC member:
Senator Hagel is a war hero and independent leader who’s served our country admirably for decades, and so I look forward to giving him a fair hearing in the Armed Services Committee. I especially look forward to hearing his ideas on how we can build on our recent successes combating waste and fraud in wartime contracting, and prevent taxpayer dollars from going to overseas projects that can’t be sustained.
Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah), SASC member:
The United States continues to face significant national security challenges and it is critical to have strong leadership at the Pentagon that can respond to our evolving and emerging threats. The nomination of Senator Hagel presents an opportunity to discuss not only his qualifications for the position and his approach to defending the United States and her allies, but also the specific ways in which he would seek to strengthen, modernize, and reform our national defense. I look forward to hearing Senator Hagel’s answers to questions involving these important issues.
Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on ABC's "This Week with George Stephanopolous" on Sunday:
He’s certainly been outspoken in foreign policy and defense over the years. The question we’ll be answering if he’s the nominee is do his views make sense for that particular job. I think he ought to be given a fair hearing, like any other nominee, and he will be.
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), SASC ranking member:
Chuck Hagel served our nation with honor in Vietnam and I congratulate him on this nomination. I have serious concerns about positions Senator Hagel has taken on a range of critical national security issues in recent years, which we will fully consider in the course of his confirmation process before the Senate Armed Services Committee.
Sen. Deb Fischer (R-Neb.), SASC member:
I plan to closely review Senator Hagel’s record and look forward to meeting with him to discuss his views on America’s role in an increasingly dangerous world. As a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, I will also have the opportunity to publicly question Senator Hagel during his confirmation hearing in the coming weeks. This process will be thorough and fair, and I look forward to participating in it.
Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.):
The responsibility of Advice and Consent is an important Constitutional duty and I look forward to the confirmation process with my former Senate colleague Chuck Hagel. I will be requesting an opportunity to meet with him one-on-one to discuss many of the issues he will face as a key member of the President’s national security team. I have concerns based on positions he has taken and statements he has made on a variety of topics. Despite my reservations, I will not prejudge his nomination but will give him ample opportunity to explain himself and current thinking on the future state and scope of our military, relationships with our allies, including Israel, and how he believes we should address challenges to our national security like Iran. I also want to be reassured that if confirmed, a Secretary Hagel would aggressively defend the forward progress made by the Department of Defense in removing discrimination based on sexual orientation from regulations and daily life among our troops.
Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), SASC member:
President Obama is to be commended for nominating a Republican Senator to serve in one of the top positions in his Cabinet. Senator Hagel is a decorated combat veteran and has a long history of standing up for the men and women who serve our country. He served bravely in the Vietnam War and was awarded two Purple Hearts. Senator Hagel would be the first enlisted soldier and first Vietnam veteran to serve as Secretary of Defense.
During his service in the U.S. Senate, Senator Hagel displayed courageous and invaluable judgment in becoming an early critic of the Iraq War. The senator was instrumental in passing the Post-9/11 GI Bill, a measure that has allowed thousands of Hawaii residents to attend college and enroll in job training. He is a widely respected voice on national security issues.
In the coming months and years, our country could face a series of potentially devastating cuts to defense and military spending, which is of particular importance to Hawaii. Hawaii is home to U.S. Pacific Command and over 100,000 service members, their families and Department of Defense civilian employees. The military is the state's second largest industry and supports over 134,000 Hawaii jobs in the public and private sectors. I look forward to getting to know Senator Hagel and discussing his views on how these cuts and President Obama's Asia pivot policy will affect Hawaii.
Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), SASC member:
Throughout his career Senator Chuck Hagel has proven to be a strong and independent leader. He valiantly defended our nation in Vietnam where he earned two Purple Hearts and in the senate served as a voice of pragmatism and principle. I look forward to speaking with Senator Hagel and considering his nomination.
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), SASC member:
Senator Hagel is a war hero who served our country honorably and was prescient in his questioning of the Iraq war. But we must look at his entire public service record in its totality in the upcoming confirmation hearings. Considering some of the statements Senator Hagel has made, and votes he has cast, particularly regarding Iran policy, tough questions must and will be asked to clarify his views before these hearings are complete. I look forward to a fair and thorough process.
Sen. Angus King (I-Maine), SASC member:
I believe it would be inappropriate for me to comment at this point on the merits of either nomination, especially since I will be sitting on the two committees which will consider these particular appointments. With respect to presidential nominations in general, however, I believe that the President should have significant latitude in appointing members of his own cabinet and that executive branch candidates deserve the opportunity to have their qualifications fully and fairly evaluated.
Senator Hagel and Mr. Brennan both have distinguished records of public service, and as a member of the Armed Services Committee and the Select Committee on Intelligence, I look forward to thoroughly reviewing their records and hearing their respective testimonies during the confirmation process. I will make decision on these nominations at the conclusion of the committee processes.
Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), SASC member (via a spokesman):
Sen. Hagel has a distinguished record but, as he’s done with other nominees, Sen. Nelson will reserve comment until there’s a full and fair confirmation hearing.
Sen. Mark Udall (D-Colo.), SASC member:
With a wide range of challenges facing our military, I expect that Chuck Hagel’s confirmation hearing will provide a forum for appropriate, insightful and frank discussions. If confirmed, Hagel would bring the Pentagon his remarkable experience as a combat veteran and outspoken Senate leader. I am certainly going to approach this hearing with an open mind, and I’m looking forward to discussing his vision for the future — as well as his answers to a range of critical questions
Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), the first openly gay member of the Senate, on MSNBC on Monday:
I plan to ask some questions, to be thorough and fair... I want to hear how he’s evolved on [same-sex issues] in the last 14 years, because the significance to the post to which he’s been nominated is the respect for now openly gay members of the military who, because of the repeal of don’t ask, don’t tell can serve openly and we need to see that implemented successfully, especially because the security of this nation is at stake.
Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.) on "This Week" on Sunday:
Chuck Hagel is a tremendous patriot and statesman, served incredibly in Vietnam, served this country as a United States senator... Let Chuck Hagel get nominated, if he’s going to be nominated, and let’s hear what the senator has to say.
Sen. Mike Johanns (R-Neb.):
Chuck Hagel’s military career is nothing short of admirable and while he has been a long-time friend, we do have very different opinions on many very important issues. Now that he has been nominated, he has an obligation to elaborate on his past statements and fully explain his positions during what I expect to be a thorough and fair confirmation hearing.
Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine):
I know Senator Hagel well from having served with him in the Senate. He is a friend of mine. I do have some concerns with some of his statements on Iran, Hamas, and Israel. Should the President nominate Sen. Hagel, I'm sure that those issues will be explored in his confirmation hearing. As always, I will reserve judgment until that hearing is complete.
Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nev.):
I have great respect for Senator Hagel’s service to this country during the Vietnam War and am thankful to him for risking his life in the defense of freedom. I do have concerns about Senator Hagel’s nomination, specifically regarding his views on Israel and Iran. I look forward to hearing Senator Hagel expand on and explain my and my fellow Senators’ concerns during the confirmation process.
Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio):
I am surprised and disappointed President Obama has chosen to move forward with Senator Hagel’s nomination given the significant concerns that both Democrats and Republicans in the Senate have expressed about Senator Hagel’s positions and past votes on issues regarding some of our closest allies and most pressing national security threats. I believe Senator Hagel should get a fair look and an opportunity to defend his record, his past comments, and his current beliefs, but I don’t understand why the Administration is looking to pick yet another political fight instead of working with Congress to solve some of the very real problems we face as a country.
Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.):
Chuck Hagel, as a former colleague and a patriot with a decorated service record, has earned the right to nothing less than a full and fair process in the Senate. I look forward to fully studying his record and exploring his views.
Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) on both Hagel and John Brennan, who was nominated to lead the CIA:
While I have concerns about the nominations made by the President today there is a process in place to address those concerns, and they will both have the opportunity to answer tough questions before the Senate.
Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.V.):
The President – like any elected executive – should have the utmost consideration in putting a staff together, and I intend to do that. I haven’t met or spoken with either Senator Hagel or Mr. Brennan, but both of these men have served our country with honor and distinction. I look forward to talking with them, hearing their views and giving their nominations my full consideration. In particular, I am eager for the Senate Armed Services Committee confirmation hearings to take place, because I will have the opportunity to ask West Virginians’ commonsense questions about how we can make our country and our world safer.
Sen. Dan Coats (R-Ind.):
I am surprised that President Obama decided to nominate Chuck Hagel to serve as Defense Secretary given the many concerns of both Republicans and Democrats. I am particularly concerned about this pick to lead our military because of the possible effects it will have on the U.S. relationship with our trusted ally Israel as well as his support for direct negotiations with Iran and terrorist organizations like Hamas. While former Senator Hagel deserves the opportunity to come before Congress, there is no doubt he will face tough questions regarding his record and past statements.
Sen. Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.), SASC member:
“There are many important challenges facing the next secretary of defense, chief among them bringing home our servicemen and women from Afghanistan.”
Sen. Kay Hagan (D-N.C.), SASC member:
“I've got some concerns over issues over one of our most important allies, Israel, and a concern over Iranian sanctions,” she told the News & Observer. “But I look forward to having an opportunity to talk with him, one on one and obviously review the record.''
Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.), SASC member:
Hagel is a decorated war hero with a strong record of bipartisanship on foreign policy and defense issues. I will do all I can to ensure the confirmation hearing addresses important questions regarding the future of our military, the current budgetary challenges facing the country and other important security issues such as U.S. policy towards Iran.”