Defense Department • Utah senator cites nominee's changing positions on Israel.
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Washington • Sen. Mike Lee joined his fellow Republicans on the Senate Armed Services Committee in voting against Chuck Hagel to head the Department of Defense, though the Democrats in the majority advanced the nomination.
Utah's Lee did not speak during a feisty debate over Hagel's confirmation and another senator cast Lee's vote by proxy against President Barack Obama's pick. The committee eventually approved Hagel on a 14-11 party-line vote.
Lee said Hagel's record on national security issues was "weak" and "dangerous" and that the nominee had once supported negotiating with Hezbollah, a group considered a terrorism organization by the United States.
Lee's opposition mirrored concerns raised by other Republicans who pointed to the former Nebraska Republican senator's comment that the Jewish lobby "intimidates" a lot of people on Capitol Hill and for his opposition to some sanctions against Iran.
"Senator Hagel's changing positions on Israel are also troubling," Lee said in a statement. "Israel is, without doubt, the most important ally the United States has in the Middle East. We cannot afford to jeopardize our relationship with Israel or send a weak signal to their enemies."
The full Senate is expected to vote on Hagel's nomination.