WASHINGTON — Both of Oklahoma’s senators signed a letter to President Barack Obama on Thursday, urging him to withdraw the nomination of Chuck Hagel as defense secretary, but the White House press secretary called the Republican effort a waste of time.
Sens. Tom Coburn, R-Muskogee, and Jim Inhofe, R-Tulsa, joined 13 other Republican senators in saying that a secretary of defense needs broad bipartisan support to serve effectively.
“Over the last half-century, no secretary of defense has been confirmed and taken office with more than three senators voting against him,” states the letter authored by Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas.
“Further, in the history of this position, none has ever been confirmed with more than 11 opposing votes. The occupant of this critical office should be someone whose candidacy is neither controversial nor divisive.”
Hagel, a former Republican senator from Nebraska, has been nominated to replace Leon Panetta. Senate Republicans, including Coburn and Inhofe, the top Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, blocked a vote on Hagel last week.
However, Hagel is expected to receive a vote next week and be confirmed in the Democratic-controlled Senate.
White House press secretary Jay Carney said Obama would “absolutely not” withdraw Hagel’s nomination and that it was unfortunate “some Senate Republicans put political posturing ahead of our nation’s security.”
He said, “For the first time in American history, Senate Republicans filibustered a nominee for Secretary of Defense — a member of their own party, a decorated combat veteran, and the right leader for our troops. A clear majority in the U.S. Senate supports Senator Hagel’s confirmation.”
In their letter, the senators criticized Hagel’s “erratic record and myriad conversions on key national security issues” and said they were concerned about comments he made about Iran during his confirmation hearing.