United States lawmakers will have their first chance to formally question Chuck Hagel, President Barack Obama's controversial defense secretary nominee, on January 31 when the Senate convenes its confirmation hearing.
The Senate Armed Services Committee announced Wednesday it will hold an open hearing, with the possibility of a follow-up session that would be closed to the public and the press, AFP reported.
Upon hearing of the nomination, the Republican Jewish Coalition issued a statement saying that the confirmation of the former Republican senator from Nebraska would be “a slap in the face for every American who is concerned about the safety of Israel,” as it cited a long list of Hagel's alarming stances on Israel and Iran.
Senator James Inhofe, the top Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, announced Tuesday that he is opposed to Hagel succeeding Leon Panetta in the key administration post.
"Unfortunately, as I told him during our meeting today, we are simply too philosophically opposed on the issues for me to support his nomination," Inhofe said Tuesday.
Hagel did, however, receive the endorsements of Sens. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.).
Schumer said Tuesday that Hagel addressed his concerns during a 90-minute Monday meeting at the White House.
“Based on several key assurances provided by Senator Hagel, I am currently prepared to vote for his confirmation,” he said.
“I encourage my Senate colleagues who have shared my previous concerns to also support him,” Schemer added.
According to a Washington Post/ABC News poll released Tuesday, forty-two percent of Americans support the nomination, while 24 percent oppose it.
There is a clear partisan divide, however, as 61 percent of Democrats support his nomination, compared with 40 percent of independents and 28 percent of Republicans.
The Democratic caucus holds 55 of the Senate's 100 seats. Should all Democrats vote for confirmation, they will need five Republicans to support the nominee in order to overcome any legislative blocking tactics.