Senator James Inhofe, the second-highest-ranking member the Senate Armed Services Committee, has committed to opposing Chuck Hagel’s nomination for Secretary of Defense.
This position constitutes a reversal of Inhofe’s earlier support and may have serious consequences for Hagel’s chances.
Inhofe changed his mind because of Hagel’s non-response to Barack Obama’s sequestration plan that will cut $500 million in spending from the defense budget. After a meeting with Hagel, Inhofe stated:
We are simply too philosophically opposed on the issues for me to support his nomination. One of my biggest concerns is avoiding Obama’s sequestration that, as Secretary Panetta has said, would be devastating to our military. However, Senator Hagel’s comments have not demonstrated that same level of concern about the pending defense cuts.
Inhofe also is troubled by Hagel’s comments vis-a-vis Israel and Iran and his support for nuclear disarmament. “Although we are opposed on issues, we are still friends. This is one of those rare times when policy differences don’t stand in the way of personal relationships,” Inhofe said.
Inhofe’s comments come at a crucial time; Senator Charles Schumer, considered by some a leading Jewish voice, decided to toe the Obama party line rather than support Israel. He chose Hagel despite the former Senator’s evident distaste for Israel.