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There are 12 Republicans on the 26-member panel, but many are among the Senate’s most conservative members. At least three, including the panel’s top Republican, James Inhofe of Oklahoma, said they would oppose Hagel even before hearing his testimony.
But others, including fellow Vietnam War veteran John McCain, Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire, Utah’s Mike Lee and Deb Fischer of Nebraska, said they would reserve judgment until after Hagel’s testimony.
McCain’s vote is considered key. He campaigned for Hagel in 1996, and Hagel was national co-chairman of the Arizona Republican’s unsuccessful 2000 presidential bid. On Tuesday, McCain said he would wait to make up his mind until he hears Hagel’s testimony.
TRAITOR TO THE RIGHT, WORRY TO THE LEFT
Some Republicans view Hagel as a traitor for questioning the Bush administration’s handling of the Iraq War, which he initially supported.
Some Democrats and moderate Republicans, meanwhile, question Hagel’s social conservatism, saying it raises concerns about how strongly he would support equal rights for women or homosexuals in the military.
“Hagel annoyed people on both the right and left with some of his comments,” said Lawrence Korb, a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress and assistant secretary of defense under President Ronald Reagan.
“My guess is in the committee, he’s going to get out, but not by a lot,” Korb said.
Controlling 55 seats in the Senate, Democrats have enough votes to confirm Hagel by a simple majority. They would need five Republican votes to overcome Senate procedural hurdles, although an effort to block Hagel would infuriate Democrats as the two parties try to negotiate delicate issues like spending cuts and a bipartisan immigration plan.