Obama Set to Nominate Hagel as Defense Secretary

Sunday, 06 Jan 2013 09:29 AM

By Paul Scicchitano

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President Barack Obama has decided to nominate former Nebraska Sen. Chuck Hagel, a Republican, to succeed Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, and is planning to announce his pick on Monday, according to a published report.

Citing Democratic officials, POLITICO also said on Sunday that the choice of the 66-year-old Hagel is likely to touch off a tempestuous confirmation battle since Hagel broke ranks with fellow Republicans on the Iraq War and angered Democratic interest groups during his time in the upper chamber.

“Chuck Hagel is a decorated war hero who would be the first enlisted soldier and Vietnam veteran to go on to serve as Secretary of Defense,” a Democratic aide told Politico. “He had the courage to break with his party during the Iraq War, and would help bring the war in Afghanistan to an end while building the military we need for the future.

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“He has been a champion for troops, veterans and military families through his service at the VA and USO, and his leadership on behalf of the post-9/11 G.I. Bill,” the aide added. “The president knows him well, has travelled with him to Iraq and Afghanistan, trusts him, and believes he represents the proud tradition of a strong, bipartisan foreign policy in the United States.”

Appearing on NBC's "Meet The Press," Sen. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell on Sunday said that Hagel is likely to undergo scrutiny in the nomination process with respect to his views on Israel and Iran in particular.

"I think it will be a lot of tough questions of Sen. Hagel but he'll be treated fairly by Republicans in the Senate," McConnell told host David Gregory.

CNN also reported late last week that a White House source had told senior congressional officials that Hagel's appointment had been “locked down.”

Hagel served in the Senate from 1997 until he retired on Jan. 3, 2009.

A source told CNN late on Thursday that the president was "mulling" over nominations last week in Hawaii.

Another White House source, however, told CNN on Friday that Obama "has not offered the job to anyone."

In addition, White House Chief of Staff Jack Lew is expected to be nominated as Treasury Secretary, also as early as next week, according to CNN.

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