Coburn: Hagel will be weak secretary

The Senate will approve the nomination of former Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.) this coming week, Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) predicted Sunday, but with so many “no” votes that he'll be an ineffective secretary of Defense.

“He doesn't have the confidence of the vast majority of the Senate, which weakens him in that position,” said Coburn, the top Republican on the Senate Homeland Security Committee, in an interview on “Fox News Sunday.” “The fact is that in modern times we haven't had one Defense secretary who's had more than three votes against him.

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“And you're going to have 40 votes against [Hagel], or 35 votes. And that sends a signal to our allies as well as our foes that he does not have broad support in the U.S. Congress, which limits his ability to carry out his job.”

Republicans filibustered Hagel’s nomination earlier this month, the first ever for a Defense nominee, calling for more time to weigh his selection. 

Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), two of Hagel's toughest critics, though, said last week they would stop blocking his nomination after he disavowed comments he'd made about the Israeli lobby dominating U.S. foreign policy. That sets up a vote for as soon as this coming week.

But while Hagel, who has the support of Democratic senators and three Republicans is likely to win an up-or-down vote, many GOP lawmakers have continued to express serious concerns about his nomination. Coburn was one of 15 Republican senators who signed a letter this past week urging Obama to withdraw Hagel's nomination.


"While we respect Senator Hagel's honorable military service, in the interest of national security, we respectfully request that you withdraw his nomination.  It would be unprecedented for a Secretary of Defense to take office without the broad base of bipartisan support and confidence needed to serve effectively in this critical position," reads the letter, which was spearheaded by Senate Minority Whip John Cornyn (R-Texas). 

“Senator Hagel’s performance at his confirmation hearing was deeply concerning, leading to serious doubts about his basic competence to meet the substantial demands of the office.  While Senator Hagel's erratic record and myriad conversions on key national security issues are troubling enough, his statements regarding Iran were disconcerting.” 

Asked about Hagel's poor showing at his confirmation hearing, Senate Armed Services Committee member Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) said that shouldn't be a reason to vote against the president's choice, and defended the nominee.

During the hearing Hagel said he misspoke when he said he supported containing Iran's nuclear program, a sharp departure from Obama's stated position that a nuclear-armed Iran is unacceptable.

“Should he be disqualified because he wasn't as articulate in the committee as he should have been?” McCaskill said, also on Fox. “I don't think he should be.”