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15 Republican Senators Call On Obama To Withdraw Chuck Hagel Nomination

Sen. Lindsey Graham, a Republican from South Carolina, talks on the phone at the Capitol in Washington, DC.
Alex Wong
Getty Images
Sen. Lindsey Graham, a Republican from South Carolina, talks on the phone at the Capitol in Washington, DC.

Fifteen Republican senators sent a letter to President Obama asking him to withdraw the nomination of former Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel to be secretary of Defense.

The senators pointed to his lackluster performance during his confirmation hearing as well as what they said were his untenable positions on Iran.

They said his confirmation testimony raised doubts "about his basic competence" and his stance on Iran means the "military option will have near zero credibility."

"It would be unprecedented for a Secretary of Defense to take office without the broad base of bipartisan support and confidence needed to serve effectively in this critical position," the senators wrote.

Last week, GOP senators took the unprecedented step of blocking an up-or-down vote on the Hagel. The New York Times reports that while Hagel will almost certainly be confirmed, Republicans seem intent on slowing his nomination.

The Times reports:

"The level of derision directed at Mr. Hagel from Republicans has been striking not just because defense secretaries are usually confirmed on a simple up-or-down vote, but also because Mr. Hagel, a Republican, served with many of them in the Senate until 2008."

During the daily White House press briefing, today, Press Secretary Jay Carney said Obama will not withdraw his nomination.

"Any suggestion otherwise might have been found in the minutes of the meetings of Friends of Hamas," Carney said.

In case you missed it, that is a reference to a rumor that popped up in the conservative press. The late Andrew Breitbart's website quoted "Senate sources" saying that Hagel has received funding from "a group purportedly called 'Friends of Hamas.'"

The group does not exist. In fact, The New York Daily News' Dan Friedman said he may have started the rumor during the course of questioning a congressional source.

The Times reports the letter was signed by, "John Cornyn of Texas, the No. 2 Senate Republican; Lindsey Graham and Tim Scott of South Carolina; Roger Wicker of Mississippi; David Vitter of Louisiana; Ted Cruz of Texas; Mike Lee of Utah; Patrick J. Toomey of Pennsylvania; Marco Rubio of Florida; Dan Coats of Indiana; Ron Johnson of Wisconsin; James E. Risch of Idaho; John Barrasso of Wyoming; and Tom Coburn of Oklahoma."

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Eyder Peralta is NPR's East Africa correspondent based in Nairobi, Kenya.