Obama should head 'back to the drawing board' on Hagel, says McKeon

The White House may be well served "to go back to the drawing board" on its nomination of former Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.) for secretary of Defense and offer up another, more politically viable candidate for the position, committee Chairman Buck McKeon (R-Calif.) told reporters. 

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"This is a Republican who is not doing well with [other] Republicans," the California Republican said during a breakfast in Washington. 

Fellow Senate Republicans John McCain (Ariz.), James Inhofe (Okla.) and Lindsey Graham (S.C.) battered Hagel during the nominee's confirmation hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee in January. 

Aside from McKeon, Graham is the only other lawmaker to call upon the White House to withdraw Hagel's nomination. 

A shift away from Hagel would go a long way toward alleviating the political tensions surrounding Defense secretary position and open the door to a number of other candidates with the experience and expertise to run the department, McKeon added. 

Former DOD policy chief Michele Flournoy, according to McKeon, would be a prime example of a qualified nominee who would not draw the scathing, partisan rhetoric that has been aimed at Hagel. 

Flournoy, along with current Deputy Defense Secretary Ash Carter, were rumored to be on the Obama administration's shortlist for the top job at DOD. 

The furor over the Hagel nomination may have prompted another high-profile defense nominee to reconsider his bid to remain part of President Obama's national security team, according to McKeon. 

Marine Corps Gen. John Allen, the former top U.S. officer in Afghanistan and White House pick to head European Command, is reportedly eyeing retirement rather than endure a contentious confirmation hearing before the Senate.

Allen's wariness to go before the Senate defense panel is reportedly rooted in the fact he may be forced to discuss his involvement in the sex scandal that forced former CIA Director David Petraeus from the agency last year. 

A subsequent DOD investigation into Allen's ties to the scandal exonerated the four-star general.

McKeon would not comment as to whether Allen would drop his nomination to European Command, but noted the controversy surrounding Hagel's bid may influence the general's decision. 

"Who knows," he said regarding the Allen nomination, "[But] look at Hagel and what can happen in the confirmation process." 

McKeon's comments come a day after Senate Republicans successfully stonewalled a confirmation vote on Hagel, defeating an effort by Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) to end debate on the nomination and hold a simple majority vote on the former senator's bid for Defense secretary. 

By a vote of 58-40, senate Democrats failed to approve cloture on the Hagel nomination by two votes with four Republicans opting to support confirmation -- Sens. Susan Collins (Maine), Thad Cochran (Miss.), Lisa Murkowski (Alaska) and Mike Johanns (Neb.). 

Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) voted present and Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) missed the vote.

After the defeat, Reid said he would bring the issue back up for a vote after next week's congressional recess. Republicans are expected to agree to cloture on the Hagel nomination and confirm him as the new DOD chief.