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Murkowski is not inclined to support Hagel

Posted: February 15, 2013 - 1:05am

JUNEAU — Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski said Thursday she is not convinced that Chuck Hagel is the right choice for U.S. secretary of defense.

Murkowski said in a statement she is not inclined to support Hagel’s nomination “because of his grasp and vision on the key questions of our time: Iran, complexities in the Middle East and the constant threat of terror networks.” However, she said she wants to hear from Alaskans, and get their thoughts, when she returns home on recess.

“Between my personal meeting with Senator Hagel and his unsteady performance in his confirmation hearing, I am not convinced that he is the right person to run the Department of Defense,” she said.

Both Murkowski and Alaska’s Democratic senator, Mark Begich, voted Thursday to move the Senate to a final vote on Hagel’s nomination. That vote fell short of the required 60-vote threshold. Another vote is expected later this month.

Begich also had met with Hagel and said, ultimately, he feels Hagel would be able to lead the effort at the Pentagon.

Republicans have been blocking the nomination. Some have challenged Hagel’s past statements and votes on Israel, Iran, Iraq and nuclear weapons.

Murkowski said it’s not unreasonable to ask for more time to fully consider the nomination. But she said Cabinet nominees deserve an up or down vote.

Begich expressed frustration with how the process has played out, calling it “unbelievable,” and said it speaks to the need for filibuster reform.

He agreed that the matter calls for an up or down vote. “If you don’t like them, vote no. Have the guts to do it. What people do is hide behind these procedural votes so they don’t have to make a stand,” Begich said in an interview.

“I’ll tell you, it shows to the American people, to Alaskans, why people are frustrated with Washington. This is another example. ... Vote yes or no. Let’s move on,” he said. “We’ve got deficits to deal with, we’ve got an economy to get back on track, and then we’ve got several other things to do.”

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