If President Obama is hoping to attract bipartisan support by nominating a Republican for defense secretary, he may be disappointed in the result.
A top Republican senator said Sunday that there is “very little” GOP backing to install Chuck Hagel as Pentagon chief when current Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta steps down after the new year.
“There would be very little Republican support. At the end of the day, there will be very few votes,” Sen. Lindsey Graham, South Carolina Republican, said on “Fox News Sunday.”
Mr. Hagel, a Nebraska Republican who served two terms in Senate before stepping down in early 2009, likely will be put forth by the White House as Mr. Obama’s choice to lead the Defense Department.
The appointment would be a rare bipartisan move by the Obama administration, which has nominated very few Republicans to leadership positions. The most notable exceptions have been Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, a Republican who spent more than a decade in the House, and former Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, a holdover from former President George W. Bush’s administration who stayed on during the early years of the Obama presidency.
The opposition to Mr. Hagel’s nomination centers on his support of defense spending cuts, openness to direct negotiations with Iranian leaders over that country’s nuclear weapons program and other foreign policy views opposed by most in the Republican Party.
Mr. Graham was not absolute in his opposition, however, saying that Mr. Hagel’s confirmation hearings will play a crucial role in whether he gets the job.
“The hearings will matter. They will matter a lot to me. If [Mr. Obama] sends Chuck Hagel up, it will be a hearing of consequence,” Mr. Graham said.