Portman indicates he may oppose Hagel nomination

Ohio Senator Rob Portman.
Ohio Senator Rob Portman.

U.S. Rob Portman (R., Ohio) said today he is inclined to oppose the nomination of former U.S. Sen. Chuck Hagel (R., Nebraska) to the post of Secretary of Defense.

Mr. Portman said in a telephone conference call with Ohio reporters that he will support requiring a super-majority of 60 votes to get to an up-or-down vote on Mr. Hagel’s nomination by President Obama to replace outgoing Secretary Leon Panetta.

Mr. Portman said he wants to see Mr. Hagel’s responses to requests for more information so as to give him the benefit of the doubt, including transcripts of speeches he’s given.

“If we vote today or tomorrow I will support those who say we ought to have a 60-vote threshold until we get those answers,” Mr. Portman said.

He said he has policy disagreements with Mr. Hagel, including disagreement with his tentative support of sanctions on Iran to prevent Iran from getting nuclear weapons and with respect to America's closest allies and pressing national security threats.

He also said Mr. Hagel doesn’t have the “skill set” needed to represent the military in dealing with Congress as the government enters a difficult period in which large cuts in the military may be called for.

He said he disagrees with some of the positions Mr. Hagel has held in the past, and was hoping the confirmation hearing in front of the Senate Armed Services Committee would allay those fears.

“I thought the hearing didn’t go well for him,” Mr. Portman said.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid announced today that Republicans have told him that they plan to block Mr. Hagel’s nomination over demands for more information from the White House.

Democrats hold a 55-45 edge in the Senate and have the numbers to confirm Mr. Hagel on a majority vote, but would need the support of five Republicans to clear the way for an up-or-down vote on Hagel, the Associated Press reported.