By Kevin Liptak, CNN
(CNN) — The Senate will move forward in confirming President Barack Obama’s nominee to become defense secretary this week, a leading Republican who opposes Chuck Hagel’s elevation to the role said Sunday.
“I don’t believe Chuck Hagel, who is a friend of mine, is qualified to be secretary of defense. But I do believe that elections have consequences, unfortunately, and the president of the United States was re-elected,” Sen. John McCain said on “State of the Union.”
The Senate will vote again Tuesday on whether to end a Republican filibuster of Hagel’s nomination. Two weeks ago, a similar attempt fell short of the 60 votes needed to end the debate. Many GOP lawmakers and aides expect Hagel to be confirmed, although with just a handful of GOP votes.
Last week, 15 GOP senators sent a letter to Obama calling on the president to withdraw his nomination of Hagel, who previously served as a Republican senator from Nebraska. McCain was not among the signatories of the letter, though he did not vote to break the filibuster last week, and has led the charge in stalling Hagel’s nomination in exchange for more information from the White House on September’s attack on a diplomatic post in Benghazi, Libya.
“I believe that when the questions are answered, and I believe they will be this week, that the president deserves an up or down vote,” McCain said, explaining later that Republicans were using the nomination of both Hagel and John Brennan, whom Obama put forward to become CIA director, to gain answers on Benghazi since it’s one of the few times the GOP minority in the Senate has leverage over the president.
“That’s just a fact of life around Washington,” McCain said.
On Brennan, the Arizona Republican said he still has questions about the CIA director nominee’s stance on torture, which he said was unclear from Brennan’s confirmation hearings this month.
“Mr. Brennan said he was opposed to waterboarding and torture, but at the same time he has said it has saved lives. I would like to know what lives were saved because the information I have is it saved no one’s life. In fact, it was a lot of misinformation,” he said.
A Democratic proponent of Hagel’s, Sen. Claire McCaskill of Missouri, said Sunday the president’s choice to head the Pentagon was receiving undue criticism from Republicans.
“The president wants him in the room as he’s making important decisions. There’s no question about his integrity of character. I think the president deserves to have the Cabinet he wants as long as the person is qualified,” she said on “Fox News Sunday.”
“He’s qualified, and I think it’s despicable how his character has been impugned by some people through innuendo and inference,” McCaskill added.