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Feb. 17, 2013 at 5:00 PM   |   Comments

Graham says Hagel will get vote some day

WASHINGTON, Feb. 17 (UPI) -- A critical Republican U.S. senator said Sunday a vote will eventually be taken on Chuck Hagel's nomination as secretary of defense.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said on "Fox News Sunday" President Obama "deserves great deference in his choices" for Cabinet secretaries and will eventually get a vote by the Senate.

Graham led the Republican effort that roiled Hagel's confirmation hearing. Graham used the hearings to press the White House for more details on the attack on the U.S. Consulate in Libya, and to chastise Hagel himself for his purported animosity toward Israel.

Graham told Fox that while Hagel was not at all qualified to be secretary of defense, it would have gone easier had Obama not tried to railroad the nomination.

"I would worry about our Congress being jammed to support a nominee The Washington Post has said is to the left of Obama on foreign policy," Graham said.

Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., told Fox he had serious doubts about another Obama appointment, John Brenner's nomination to run the CIA, which he said stemmed from a lack of details about U.S. drone operations and the potential for strikes directed at American citizens.

"The president will not answer that he will not target Americans on American soil," Paul said, adding, "You should get some protection for being an American citizen ... there probably should be some process."


McCain questions Dems' immigration stance

WASHINGTON, Feb. 17 (UPI) -- Arizona Sen. John McCain questioned Sunday whether Democrats really want to pass immigration reform, or merely bring up the issue for political gain.

McCain, who has been at the center of another heated Washington debate over the confirmation of President Barack Obama's nominee for defense secretary, acknowledged Republicans struggled with Hispanic voters in November's election, and asked whether Democrats were serious about passing comprehensive immigration reform -- and taking a winning issue off the table in 2014's midterm election.

"I believe we're making progress on a bipartisan basis," McCain said on NBC's "Meet the Press" Sunday.

McCain is one of a group of eight bipartisan senators working to come up with an immigration bill that appeals to members of both parties.

"Does the president really want a result?" McCain said. "Or does he want another cudgel so he can beat up Republicans to get an advantage in the next election?"

McCain also addressed the confirmation proceedings for Chuck Hagel, the former Republican senator from Nebraska who Obama has nominated to replace outgoing Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta.

McCain acknowledged Hagel likely has the votes to be confirmed when the Senate returns to business next week.

Obama Chief of Staff Denis McDonough said Hagel will be ready to serve if and when he is confirmed.

"No, he's not going to be a weaker defense secretary," McDonough said. "He's going to be a great defense secretary."


White House addressing Benghazi lessons

WASHINGTON, Feb. 17 (UPI) -- President Obama's chief of staff Sunday defended the White House's management of the September terrorist attack on the U.S. Consulate in Libya.

Denis McDonough said the actions of the president and his team were upheld by the Accountability Review Board, set up by the State Department in the aftermath of the Benghazi raid, which cost the lives for four Americans.

"They said that ... the Washington-based effort was a good effort that (we) did everything it possibly could have," McDonough said on CBS' "Face the Nation."

The actions of Obama and his top aides have been the topic of debate and demands from Republicans in Congress who have portrayed the president of being unfocused and failing to take adequate steps to provide security for the Benghazi diplomats.

McDonough said the current priority for the administration was addressing any shortcomings. "He's demanded of us, his team, be that at State Department, be that at the White House or at the Pentagon or the intelligence community, to make sure this never happens again," he said. "He won't put up with it."


Obama plays golf with Woods

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla., Feb. 17 (UPI) -- President Obama played golf at an exclusive Florida golf club Sunday with professional Tiger Woods, the White House said.

The Floridian, a gated course and residential compound at Port St. Lucie, is owned by Houston businessman and Obama donor Jim Crane, The Washington Post reported.

The Post said Crane is a near-scratch golfer who also owns the Houston Astros.

White House principal deputy press secretary Josh Earnest issued a statement saying, "The president played golf today with (outgoing U.S. Tade Representative) Ron Kirk, Jim Crane and Tiger Woods."

Woods, winner of 14 major golf championships who lives not far from Port St. Lucie in a home near Orlando, Fla., is not playing the PGA tour event in Los Angeles this weekend, the Post said.

He is currently ranked No. 7 in the world. Woods fell in popularity three years ago after admitting adultery.

Reporters were allowed inside The Floridian, the White House press pool said.

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