Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT), along with 14 other Republican senators, signed a letter to President Obama Thursday urging him to withdraw his nomination of Chuck Hagel for Secretary of Defense.
Hagel, a former Republican senator from Nebraska, has been under fire from his fellow party members ever since his unimpressive confirmation hearing Jan. 31.
“Senator Hagel’s performance at his confirmation hearing was deeply concerning, leading to serious doubts about his basic competence to meet the substantial demands of the office,” the senators wrote. “While Senator Hagel’s erratic record and myriad conversions on key national security issues are troubling enough, his statements regarding Iran were disconcerting. More than once during the hearing, he proclaimed the legitimacy of the current regime in Tehran, which has violently repressed its own citizens, rigged recent elections, provided material support for terrorism, and denied the Holocaust.”
During his eight-hour hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee, Hagel repeatedly apologized for past comments and clarified the meaning of several quotes committee members drilled him with. At one point Hagel told Lee, “Like many things I’ve said, I would like to go back and change the words and the meaning.”
Republican senators are concerned that Hagel lacks the bipartisan confidence and support necessary for him to serve effectively in “this critical position,” the letter said.
“Over the last half-century, no Secretary of Defense has been confirmed and taken office with more than three senators voting against him,” the senators wrote.
Last week, Senate Republicans blocked a vote to advance the nomination of Hagel. Lee voted against Hagel while Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) voted present.
Senators who joined Lee in signing the letter to Obama include Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX), Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK), Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK), Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Sen. Roger Wicker (R-MS), Sen. David Vitter (R-LA), Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), Toomey (R-PA), Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC), Sen. Dan Coats (R-IN), Sen. Ron Johnson (R – WI), Sen. James Risch (R-ID) and Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY).