Former Nebraska Senator Chuck Hagel attempts to answer his critics and make his case to become the next Secretary of Defense during a hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee this morning.
Sen. Deb Fischer serves on the Armed Services Committee and has met privately with Hagel.
“You know, I said we had a very frank discussion and I believe we did.”
But, questions remain, that Fischer wants answered before committing to vote for Hagel.
Fischer says Hagel needs to tell the committee what he believes the mission and future of the American military will be. Also, Fischer wants to hear Hagel discuss money. Specifically, she will be listening to hear how Hagel views the deep, automatic budget cuts pending if Congress doesn’t head off the so-called sequester.
A subplot hangs in the background as Nebraska’s United States Senators consider the Hagel nomination.
All three are Republicans. Yet, Hagel strained their relationship last year when late in Fischer’s United States Senate race with Democrat Bob Kerrey, Hagel flew to Nebraska to very publicly endorse Kerrey for Senate.
Fischer says that won’t have an affect on his decision and that strain might be most evident in Hagel’s relationship with Sen. Mike Johanns, who succeeded him in the United States Senate.
Johanns refers to Hagel as a friend. The two have campaigned together. Yet, Johanns surmised that Hagel endorsed Kerrey at the behest of the Obama Administration, a move that would only strengthen his credentials for a cabinet post. Hagel emphatically rejected the notion, criticizing Johanns for suggesting it.
Johanns has also sat down with Hagel and he says they had a good discussion, though Johanns is quick to add that the two don’t see eye-to-eye on national security matters. Johanns is especially cautious of Hagel’s view of Israel. Many have charged that Hagel hasn’t been a strong ally of Israel and has been soft on Middle Eastern terrorism.
Those concerns will likely arise in the hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee.
Johanns, who has served in the cabinet as Secretary of Agriculture under George W. Bush, believes the Obama Administration has secured enough votes from Senate Democrats to ensure Hagel’s confirmation.
“Don’t put anything into the bank until the hearing. I think most senators are waiting for the hearing to say something publicly,” Johanns says.
Johanns believes Hagel can manage the 60 votes needed to become the next Secretary of Defense.
AUDIO: Brent Martin reports [:40]