In a sign of the trouble Chuck Hagel faces in winning support to head the Pentagon, two top Senate Democrats offered praise for former senator –but stopped short of assuring his confirmation.
President Obama made official on Monday his choice of Hagel to be the next secretary of defense, an expected nomination that’s already come under extreme fire. The president also named counterterrorism adviser John Brennan to lead the CIA.
Hagel faces opposition from the left and right: from the left for controversial comments about gays, and for the right for positions on Iran, Israel and others.
“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,” says Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.
Reid adds: “I trust that all Senators will give these two men a fair and constructive confirmation process. The Senate takes seriously its role in advice and consent and I expect that this body will live up to this tradition and responsibility.”
Sen. Carl Levin of Michigan, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, sounds a similar note on the Hagel nomination: supportive, but not explicitly guaranteeing a Senate confirmation, either.
“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,” Levin says. “The Armed Services Committee will give prompt and careful consideration to Senator Hagel’s nomination for this critical position.”
Such language is unusual because historically, senators have given easy confirmation to those presidential appointees who have served in the Senate.