President Obama today will nominate former Sen. Chuck Hagel, R-Neb., for defense secretary, starting what could be a difficult confirmation process on both sides of aisle. Hagel has already been attacked with TV ads over perceived weak support toward Israel and has had to apologize for anti-gay remarks.
Florida Sen. Marco Rubio has another concern: Hagel's position on Cuba, which has lined up with others who say sanctions are "outdated, unrealistic, irrelevant policy." (more on Hagel's position here)
Rubio spokesman Alex Conant said, “We have a process for nominations, and Senator Rubio won’t prejudge these nominees. Senator Rubio hopes he will be able to meet with Senator Hagel prior to his confirmation vote. We’ll have questions about some of Senator Hagel’s past positions, including sanctions on Iran and promoting democracy in Latin America, since that’s long been a priority for Senator Rubio."
Conant said Rubio has questions about Obama's nominee to head the CIA, John Brennan: "The national security leaks during President Obama’s first term were worrisome and should be a topic for Mr. Brennan’s nomination hearing. As a member of the Intelligence Committee, Sen. Rubio looks forward to engaging Mr. Brennan during this process.”
The White House is confident Hagel will be confirmed, asserting Republicans won't want to go against a Vietnam veteran who earned two Purple Hearts.
UPDATE: Sen. Bill Nelson statement: "Both nominees have distinguished records, but Sen. Nelson’s going to reserve comment until each has had a full and fair confirmation hearing, and an examination of their record."
Posted by Alex Leary