WASHINGTON – President Barack Obama was poised to nominate former Nebraska Sen. Chuck Hagel as his new defense secretary Monday, but Republicans are signaling a fierce confirmation fight even though he is one of their own.
Obama has decided he wants the 66-year-old to succeed Leon Panetta at the Pentagon and was to make his announcement Monday, a White House source said.
Obama is also expected to announce who he has chosen to replace David Petraeus at the helm of the CIA, with acting Director Michael Morell and counterterrorism adviser John Brennan seen as the front-runners, CNN said.
Despite the fact that Hagel is a fellow Republican, party heavyweights scenting blood in bitterly divided Washington have accused him of hostility toward Israel and naivety on Iran, auguring a tough nomination process ahead. GOP Sen. Lindsey Graham did not shy away from a full-frontal attack, saying Hagel would be “the most antagonistic defense secretary toward the state of Israel in our nation’s history.
If confirmed by the Senate as Pentagon chief, Hagel will have to manage major cuts to military spending while wrapping up the U.S. war effort in Afghanistan.
It is unusual for presidential nominees for Cabinet posts to be voted down by the Senate, and Obama’s Democrats currently hold a decisive majority in the upper house. Should Republicans choose to use an obstructive tactic known as the filibuster to prevent the matter from being brought to a vote, Obama would only need to woo a handful of their number to see his nominee confirmed.