Sen. John McCain of Arizona predicted on Thursday that Chuck Hagel will eventually get the votes to become secretary of defense — and that “we’ll vote his nomination on a party-line basis just about, with rare exception.”
The 2008 GOP presidential candidate told Fox News that Hagel’s nomination was filibustered because Republicans had just received answers to questions regarding the former Nebraska senator from the White House Thursday morning.
“We didn’t get the answers to many questions,” McCain told Fox News. “We just got the answers to major questions we had this morning.”
Many of those questions had surrounded President Barack Obama’s contact with the State Department during the crucial hours of the Sept. 11 attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi.
The question came in a letter to the White House from McCain, Sen. Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire and Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina.
McCain also debunked Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s reference that Thursday’s filibuster marks the first time that a defense secretary's nomination has been filibustered. He referenced the 1989 Democratic filibuster of the nomination of GOP Sen. John Tower of Texas, which lasted three months.
“Even though Harry Reid’s got a good memory, he seems to have a memory loss here,” McCain told Fox. “It didn’t seem to bother Harry Reid or Sen. Carl Levin [the Michigan Democrat] at the time.”
Hagel’s not stepping down at this juncture, McCain said.
“Frankly, because I’m opposed to him, I’d love to see him step aside, but he will not,” he told Fox. “They’ll probably get the votes when we return from the recess.
“There’s a lot of ill will towards Sen. Hagel, because when he was a Republican, he attacked President Bush mercilessly — at one point, said he was the worst president since Herbert Hoover — said that the [Iraqi troop] surge was the worst blunder since the Vietnam war, which is nonsense,” McCain added.
“He was very anti-his own party and people. People don’t forget that. You can disagree, but if you’re disagreeable, then people don’t forget that.”
Further, “Chuck Hagel does not have the qualifications — in the view of many of us, particularly me — to serve. He’s has no managerial experience. His view of the world is very different. His answers on Iran were troubling. His opposition to the surge, saying it would fail.
“You can only judge people on what they’re going to do by what they’ve done in the past — and that record is not a good one,” McCain added.
“At the same time, the president won the election. He can select his nominees, but we have advice and consent.”
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