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Washington • Sen. Orrin Hatch says he has "serious concerns" with President Barack Obama's nominee for secretary of defense, though the Utah Republican didn't indicate Monday whether he would ultimately vote against former Sen. Chuck Hagel.
Utah's other GOP senator, Mike Lee, said he isn't sure whether he'll support Hagel or not and will wait to see how the nominee answers questions during his Senate vetting.
"The United States continues to face significant national security challenges and it is critical to have strong leadership at the Pentagon that can respond to our evolving and emerging threats," Lee said in a statement. "The nomination of Senator Hagel presents an opportunity to discuss not only his qualifications for the position and his approach to defending the United States and her allies, but also the specific ways in which he would seek to strengthen, modernize, and reform our national defense."
Lee now sits on the Senate Armed Services Committee that will evaluate Hagel's nomination.
Hatch, on the other hand, says he "likes" Hagel but raised concerns with his fellow Republican's positions on nuclear forces and his approach toward Israel and Iran. Hagel, who served as a senator from Nebraska until 2009, said in an interview with The Weekly Standard that the, "Jewish lobby intimidates a lot of people up here," and he also voted against U.S. sanctions against Iran in favor of more direct discussions.
"I suspect that I might be able to support [him], but I'm going to look at it like everyone else," Hatch said. "I've been disturbed by the positions he's taken. On the other hand, is he qualified and is he going to justify his positions today? We'll just have to see."