Graham, McCain and Collins Retain Their Veto Power Over Obama Nominees

WASHINGTON, DC - DECEMBER 11: Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) talks to reporters after leaving the Senate GOP policy luncheon at the U.S. Captiol December 11, 2012 in Washington, DC. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and the Senate Republicans met for their weekly policy luncheon meeting and, with the ‘fiscal cliff’ looming, said President Barack Obama and Senate Democrats have ‘refused to be pinned down on any spending cuts.’ (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Has the successful tarring and feathering of Susan Rice calmed down Republican opposition to Obama nominees? What an adorable question. The answer is “no.” As they went to and from caucus lunches today, the Republicans who helped controversialize the Rice nomination (or pre-nomination) made reporters know that they had real concerns about the possible attempt to put Chuck Hagel atop DOD. A Weekly Standard reporter asked Graham to respond to Hagel quotes now making the rounds, in which the former senator criticized the influence of the “Jewish lobby” in Washington.

“He’ll have to answer that comment,” said Graham. “He’ll have to answer questions about why he thought it was a good idea to negotiate directly with Hamas, and why he objected to the European Union declaring Hezbollah a terrorist organization.” Graham didn’t rule out a vote for Hagel. He only said that the hearings, if they came, would be pivotal, and “not a puppet show.”

Sen. Susan Collins, who withheld support for Rice after meeting with her, was about to jump into an elevator when a Congressional Quarterly reporter asked about Hagel. She moved back out of the elevator, to make a very deliberate statement.

“Sen. Hagel is a friend of mine,” she said. “He was a fine senator. I know him well from having served with him. I am concerned with some of his statements on Iran, and Hamas, and Israel, and I’m sure that those issues will be explored in the nomination hearing, should he be nominated.”

And then came Sen. John McCain, who initially brushed off a question about John Kerry going to State because he didn’t want to pre-judge a nominee. (He really did say this.) When pressed, McCain said that Kerry’s Senate service and qualifications made him a serious contender. Alas: “He said Desert Storm would not succeed. He said, get out of Vietnam. Those things will, of course, be re-examined if he’s the nominee.”