BOSTON (AP) — Maine Sen. Angus King said Thursday that he sees no strong reason to oppose President Barack Obama's pick for secretary of defense.
The newly elected senator, an independent, said in an interview with The Associated Press that he won't make a final decision on former Sen. Chuck Hagel's nomination until confirmation hearings are finished. King serves as a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, which is scheduled to hold a confirmation hearing on Jan. 31.
"I start with a presumption that the president should be able to appoint his own people to his Cabinet. So unless there's some strong disqualifying element or quality to the nominee, I start with that positive presumption," King said.
Asked whether he saw a strong disqualifying element or quality with Hagel, King said, "No."
"But I want to see what the testimony is at the hearing and have a chance to talk to him directly," he added.
King said he was scheduled to meet privately with Hagel on Friday, but a King spokesman says the meeting has been moved to next week.
Hagel did meet Thursday with Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., the chairman of the Judiciary Committee. Leahy had previously expressed his support for the nominee. In a statement, he called Hagel "superb and highly qualified."