- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 6, 2013

Amid news reports that the Obama administration has settled on Chuck Hagel to head the Defense Department, Republicans on Sunday made it clear the former Nebraska senator will face tough questioning.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, in an appearance on CNN’s “State of the Union,” said a Hagel nomination would be the most “antagonistic” to Israel in recent history.

“This is an in-your-face nomination by the president to all of us who are supportive of Israel,” Mr. Graham, South Carolina Republican, said.

On “Fox News Sunday,” Sen. Ted Cruz said the Iranian mullahs who support terror groups in the Middle East would cheer a Hagel nomination.

Mr. Cruz, Texas Republican, said a Hagel nomination, over the objections of key lawmakers, was an indication that President Obama has misread the results of Election Day and thinks he faces no opposition on Capitol Hill.

“This is a president who has drunk the tea. He’s high on re-election right now,” the freshman GOP senator said.

Mr. Graham said Mr. Hagel, a Republican, has long since cut ties with the GOP with his sharp criticism of former President Bush and the war in Iraq, his skeptical comments about the country’s relationship with Israel, and his openness to direct negotiations with Iran.

Mr. Obama is due to return to Washington on Sunday from his family vacation in Hawaii and is expected to make an official announcement about the Defense Department nomination on Monday, according to some reports.

In an appearance on ABC’s “This Week,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican, said Mr. Hagel would get a fair confirmation hearing if he’s picked as defense secretary, but he said Mr. Hagel, a former Nebraska senator, will have to explain his controversial comments.

“I’m going to take a look at all of the things Chuck has said over the years and review that, and in term of his qualifications to lead our nation’s military,” Mr. McConnell said. “He certainly has been outspoken on foreign policy and defense over the years. The question we will be answering, if he is the nominee, is: Do his views make sense for that part job.”

On CNN, Sen. Richard J. Durbin, Illinois Democrat, pushed back against the Hagel critics: “He is a serious candidate if the president chooses to name him.”

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