Likely defense nominee Hagel drawing fire

Jan. 5, 2013 at 11:24 AM
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WASHINGTON, Jan. 5 (UPI) -- U.S. President Barack Obama likely will nominate former Sen. Chuck Hagel, R-Neb., as secretary of defense, the Los Angeles Times reports.

Although Hagel had not yet been officially nominated to succeed Leon Panetta, the Times said Friday officials it described as familiar with the process say an announcement could come as early as Monday and opposition had already surfaced from members of both parties.

Obama's selection of Hagel -- a Vietnam War veteran who served two terms in the Senate before retiring in 2008 -- would reinforce an image of bipartisanship for the Democratic president's administration, the newspaper said. Robert Gates, a Republican who headed the Pentagon under the George W. Bush administration, was retained by Obama when he took office in 2008.

Conservative Republicans have criticized Hagel for past comments in which he opposed sanctions against Iran and called on Israel to negotiate with Palestinian groups.

Liberal Democrats and gay rights advocates are upset over comments Hagel made15 years ago when he called an ambassadorial nominee "openly aggressively gay." He recently apologized for those remarks.

Former Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., said Monday he was "strongly opposed" to Hagel's nomination, The Hill reported.

Frank, who is gay, this week expressed interest in being named an interim replacement for Sen. John Kerry, who has been nominated for secretary of state. The Senate must confirm Obama's Cabinet nominees.

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