WASHINGTON--Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) on Saturday raised concerns over former Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.) record on Iran and Israel as it appears more likely President Barack Obama will nominate him for Defense Secretary.
A variety of outlets are reporting that Obama is close to announcing Hagel to replace Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, with an announcement as early as next week.
Hagel's record on Israel and Iran has already set the stage for a likely confirmation battle if Obama goes ahead with the nomination.
"I appreciate and respect Senator Hagel's record of service to our country, especially as a decorated combat veteran," Kirk said in a statement to Foreign Policy's "The Cable" column, adding his voice to a growing number of detractors.
"While he has not yet been nominated, I am concerned about his past record and statements, particularly with regard to Iran and the U.S.-Israel relationship. Should he be nominated to serve as Secretary of Defense, I will join my colleagues on both sides of the aisle in a rigorous examination of these and other issues of concern," Kirk said.
Kirk, who returned to the Senate Thursday after an almost year-long absence because of his stroke, has been a leader in calling for tougher sanctions against Iran in order to prevent the nation hostile to Israel from gaining nuclear weapon capability. Last month, legislation by Kirk along with now former Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Ct.) and Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) added additional sanctions against Iran.
Last Sunday on NBC's "Meet the Press," Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said if Hagel is nominated, "I don't think he's going to get many Republican votes."