Bloomberg News

McCain Says Hagel Not Qualified for Defense, Sees Full Vote

February 24, 2013

U.S. Senator John McCain

U.S. Senator John McCain, a Republican from Arizona, said today that he does not believe that former Republican Senator from Nebraska Chuck Hagel is qualified to be secretary of defense. Photographer: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

U.S. Senator John McCain said Chuck Hagel isn’t qualified to be secretary of defense while predicting that the former lawmaker will receive a Senate vote, barring any further disclosures about his past statements.

“I do not believe that Chuck Hagel, who is a friend of mine, is qualified to be secretary of defense,” Republican McCain said on CNN’s “State of the Union” program today.

Asked whether there is anything standing in the way of a Senate vote on the former senator’s nomination, McCain responded: “I think it will happen, barring some additional revelation concerning his comments about Israel and all those other really unfortunate things he said in the past.”

Democrats, who have a majority in the Senate, scheduled a vote for Feb. 26 on Hagel’s confirmation. McCain said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” program Feb. 17 that Hagel “will probably have the votes necessary” to win confirmation as senators return from a week-long break.

Hagel, 66, a Nebraska Republican who served two terms in the Senate, has faced challenges from members of his own party because of his past opposition to unilateral sanctions against Iran, his comment in 2006 about the influence of what he called “the Jewish lobby,” and his statements against the U.S. troop buildup in 2007 that hastened the end of the Iraq war.

Effectiveness Questioned

Tom Coburn, a Republican Senator from Oklahoma, said that Hagel may receive confirmation now that McCain and other opponents of the nomination are willing to allow a vote to proceed. Even so, Coburn questioned whether Hagel could be effective, given that at least 35 Republicans are still expected to vote against him.

“That sends a signal to our allies as well as our foes that he doesn’t have broad support” as secretary of defense, Coburn said on “Fox News Sunday” today.

Some Republicans pushed to delay consideration of Hagel’s nomination partly to press the Democratic Obama administration for more information about its response to the Sept. 11, 2012, attack on the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya, that killed U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans.

McCain, asked about the possibility he would put a “hold” on the nomination of John Brennan to become director of the Central Intelligence Agency, said he is still seeking information from the nominee about the Benghazi attack as well as his position on the interrogation technique known as “waterboarding.”

Examine Options

“I think you examine your options when you decide” on the information, McCain said. “Look, I don’t want to put a hold on anybody, but the American people deserve answers about Benghazi.”

The White House will provide the Senate Intelligence Committee with more documents related to Benghazi, including e- mail messages, the Associated Press reported Feb. 22, citing an unidentified congressional aide.

In a letter to McCain and two other Republican senators earlier this month, White House counsel Kathryn Ruemmler said that the administration had cooperated with Congress to provide “an extensive amount of information” about the Benghazi attack, including 10,000 pages of documents.

McCain is a senior member of the Armed Services Committee, which after a party-line vote on Feb. 12 sent the Hagel nomination to the full Senate for consideration.

To contact the reporters on this story: Kevin Costelloe at kcostelloe@bloomberg.net. Miles Weiss at Mweiss@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Steven Komarow at skomarow1@bloomberg.net


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