GOP senators hint Hagel’s in for tough confirmation fight

Several Republican senators voiced their concerns on Sunday about President Obama's expected nomination of former Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel for defense secretary over past statements the former Nebraska lawmaker made about Israel and gay rights--hinting Hagel's confirmation would not come without a fight.

On CNN's "State of the Union," South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham called Hagel an "in your face" choice by the president.

“Chuck Hagel, if confirmed to be the secretary of defense, would be the most antagonistic secretary of defense toward the state of Israel in our nation’s history," Graham said. “Not only has he said you should directly negotiate with Iran, sanctions won’t work, that Israel should directly negotiate with the Hamas organization, a terrorist group that lobs thousands of rockets into Israel. He also was one of 12 senators who refused to sign a letter to the European Union that Hezbollah should be designated as a terrorist organization.

"This is an in-your-face nomination by the president," Graham continued. "And it looks like the second term of Barack Obama is going to be an in-your-face term."

Hagel's nomination for the post is expected to be announced by the White House on Monday, according to Politico.

On "Fox News Sunday," Texas Sen. Ted Cruz said the reported choice of Hagel proves Obama was emboldened by his victory in November. "This is a president who has drunk the tea," Cruz said. "He's high on reelection right now."

On ABC's "This Week," Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said he'd "wait and see how the hearings go," and see "whether Chuck's views square with the job he would be nominated to do."

"Whoever's nominated for secretary of defense is going to have to have a full understanding of our close relationship with our Israeli allies, the Iranian threat and the importance of having a robust military," McConnell said. "So whoever that is, I think, will be given a thorough vetting. And if Senator Hagel's nominated, he'll be subjected to the same kinds of review of his credentials as anyone else.

McConnell added: "He's certainly been outspoken in foreign policy and defense over the years. The question we will be answering, if he's the nominee, is 'Do his views make sense for that particular job?'"

In 2006, Hagel said that "the Jewish lobby intimidates a lot of people” in Washington, angering both its members and supporters.

In 1998, Hagel called U.S. Ambassador James C. Hormel “aggressively gay” after his appointment by President Bill Clinton. "[American ambassadors] are representing our lifestyle, our values, our standards," Hagel said. "And I think it is an inhibiting factor to be gay."

Last month, Hagel apologized. “My comments 14 years ago in 1998 were insensitive," he said in a statement. "They do not reflect my views or the totality of my public record, and I apologize to Ambassador Hormel and any LGBT Americans who may question my commitment to their civil rights."

Last week on "Meet The Press," President Obama dismissed concerns about Hagel's past.

"I know him. He is a patriot," the president said. "He is somebody who has done extraordinary work both in the United States Senate, somebody who served this country with valor in Vietnam. And is somebody who’s currently serving on my intelligence advisory board and doing an outstanding job."

"With respect to the [gay] comment," Obama added, "he apologized for it. And I think it’s a testimony to what has been a positive change over the last decade in terms of people’s attitudes about gays and lesbians serving our country.”