Congressional aides say that lurking underneath Republican opposition to his positions on Iran, Israel and defense spending is a dislike for how the former senator from Nebraska spoke to staffers and embraced his role as President George W. Bush’s top Republican critic from 2006 to 2008.
“No one on the Republican side likes him,” a Republican congressional aide told The Washington Times. “Many senators are being polite by not blasting him right away, but there is no way he will get their support at confirmation time.”
Mr. Hagel’s confirmation hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee is scheduled for Thursday.
Prompted by a reporter for The Washington Post at a public event, Mr. Hagel judged Mr. Bush to be a worse president than Herbert Hoover, who often is blamed for worsening the Great Depression.
As his criticisms intensified, so did Mr. Hagel’s popularity with the liberal news media.
But his standing has sunk among the Senate Republican caucus to the point where Republicans predict Mr. Hagel will get few, if any, of their votes at confirmation time. Former Rep. Leon E. Panetta, a Democrat, won unanimous Senate confirmation for defense secretary in 2011.
In recent days, Republican comments have become more caustic.
Sen. Roger Wicker of Mississippi met with Mr. Hagel this month, then called the nominee’s explanation of his voting record on Iran sanctions irresponsible.
“I am deeply concerned that in the span of one week, Sen. Hagel’s views on Iran sanctions have changed multiple times based on public reaction and criticism of his record,” Mr. Wicker said. “I appreciate Sen. Hagel’s record of military service, but it is difficult to understand where he stands on many important issues due to constantly changing positions. Saying anything to anyone just to get confirmed is irresponsible and does a disservice to our armed forces and to the entire country.”
Sen. John McCain, Arizona Republican, describes Mr. Hagel as an “old friend.” Yet he scoffed at Mr. Hagel’s 2007 Senate floor speech calling the just-started Iraq troop surge one of the biggest blunders in U.S. military history.
“That is a bizarre statement,” Mr. McCain told Politico.
Sen. John Barrasso, Wyoming Republican, wrote in The Wall Street Journal on Wednesday that he found “troubling and insulting” Mr. Hagel’s reference to backers of Israel as the “Jewish lobby” that intimidates Congress.
Sen. Bob Corker, Tennessee Republican, has suggested that Mr. Hagel may lack the temperament to run the world’s biggest office building and manage its 24,000 employees.