Former Sen. Chuck Hagel, President Obama's choice to be the next secretary of Defense, is again in the GOP's crosshairs. Sen. Lindsay Graham, R-S.C., has asked the administration to withdraw its nomination of Hagel. (J. Scott Applewhite / AP)
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Senate Republicans on Tuesday renewed their assault on Chuck Hagel, urging President Obama to withdraw his nomination for defense secretary.
Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., who pounded Hagel last week during his confirmation hearing, issued a veiled threat as the business day in Washington began.
"Chuck Hagel is a good man, but these are dangerous times," Graham said in a statement. "What kind of signal are we sending to the Iranians when our nominee for secretary of defense seems clueless about what our policy is? I hope the Obama administration will reconsider his nomination."
Graham's call for the White House to withdraw the nomination comes amid GOP concerns that Hagel is anti-Israel, unwilling to use U.S. military and economic force against Iran, too willing to trim America's atomic arms fleet, and overly reluctant to use the military around the globe.
Hagel endured relentless and aggressive GOP questioning last week during a marathon eight-hour confirmation hearing. During the session, Republican Senate Armed Services Committee members hammered Hagel for past statements and views on confronting Iran, the U.S.-Israeli alliance and the proper size of the American nuclear arsenal.
Even some Hagel backers have acknowledged his performance was lackluster and that he did not clearly nor forcefully respond to the GOP barrage.
With panel chairman Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., hopeful the committee can vote on the nomination Thursday, all eyes are on whether Republicans will attempt to filibuster Hagel's nomination.
No GOP senator has revealed filibuster plans, with media reports indicating Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., opposes such a move.
Graham's call for withdrawal also comes as Senate Democrats, some of whom have been among Hagel's defenders, are sequestered in Annapolis, Md., for a two-day policy retreat — away from the microphones of the Washington media corps.
One Democratic congressional source responded to Graham's statement with shock, criticizing Senate Republicans' attacks on Hagel.
Late last week, defense analysts and former congressional aides involved in Hagel's confirmation preparations predicted he would be confirmed by the full Senate.
But all declined to predict whether one or more Senate Republicans who are eager to deliver a blow to Obama will mount a filibuster attempt. Senate Democratic leaders and the White House need to keep all 55 of the upper chamber's Democrats on board, and pick up five GOP senators to reach the 60 "yay" votes needed to avoid a filibuster.
Two Republicans so far say they will vote for Hagel to become defense secretary. He needs three more to turn off the filibuster threat.