Hagel gets a White House boost

  • Article by: JACKIE CALMES
  • New York Times
  • February 17, 2013 - 8:40 PM


President Obama's chief of staff said Sunday that the White House had "grave concern" that national security was at risk, given the Senate Republicans' delaying tactics in confirming both a new Pentagon chief and a director of the Central Intelligence Agency.

Denis McDonough, the chief of staff, made the comment on the ABC News program "This Week," one of several Sunday shows where he made debut appearances as the top White House adviser. He was reacting to the likelihood that neither former Sen. Chuck Hagel, Obama's nominee to be defense secretary, nor John Brennan, Obama's choice for the CIA, would get a Senate vote until late this month at the earliest.

Senate Republicans blocked Hagel's confirmation on Thursday with the first-ever filibuster against a defense secretary nominee, citing his views on Israel, Iran and Iraq.

Separately, Republican Sens. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and John McCain of Arizona have used senators' prerogatives to hold up Brennan's confirmation until they get more information from the administration about drone attacks and about its actions during the Sept. 11, 2012, terrorist attack in Benghazi, Libya, that killed the U.S. ambassador and three other Americans.

With the Senate now on a 10-day recess, some Republicans have expressed hope that in the meantime conservative groups and Hagel's other opponents would find new information in the effort to defeat his nomination.

"It's a grave concern," McDonough said of the delay. "If you look at Chuck Hagel -- decorated war veteran himself, war hero, Republican senator, somebody who over the course of the last many years, either as a Republican senator or as a chairman of the President's Intelligence Advisory Board, I've worked with very closely. This guy has one thing in mind -- how do we protect the country."

McDonough, who was formerly Obama's deputy national security adviser, working under Brennan, added that "between John Brennan as the CIA director and Chuck Hagel as secretary of defense, we want to make sure that we have those guys sitting in the chairs working. Because I don't want there to have been something missed because of this hang-up here in Washington."

The White House and Senate Democrats have continued to express confidence that both men will be confirmed.

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