President Barack Obama's defense secretary nominee, Chuck Hagel, appears to have gained enough support to clear a Senate confirmation vote next week, but Sen. Bob Corker said Friday he remains undecided on whether he will vote to confirm the former Republican senator.
The senator and former Chattanooga mayor said he was "leaning against" supporting Hagel but desired more time to review answers to written questions provided by the nominee, along with a transcript of his lengthy hearing before the Armed Services Committee.
"I want to go through the transcripts this weekend," Corker said, after he offered remarks to members of the Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce. "I am leaning against supporting him. I'm not planning to filibuster him; I think we should have an up-or-down vote on him. But I am leaning against supporting him at this point, and I'll make the decision next week."
Hagel, a Vietnam veteran and former Nebraska senator, was nominated by Obama to replace current Defense Secretary Leon Panetta in January. Since being tapped, Hagel's nomination has come under intense scrutiny by GOP senators who have questioned his experience and views on issues since he departed the Senate in 2009.
Corker suggested last week's vote to stall Hagel's confirmation process was not overtly meant to be a partisan rebuke against the Obama administration but rather was made to give senators more time to review Hagel's qualifications for the post.
"You have the hearing, and then you have written questions," he said. "And there were a number of written questions that had not been answered when the nomination came to the floor … There were enough senators that were willing to respect the rights of other senators to get their questions answered that that vote was really about not ending debate."
Both Corker and Sen. Lamar Alexander have said they will support a vote to end debate and have an up-or-down roll call on Hagel's confirmation next week. Alexander has indicated he plans to oppose Hagel, issuing a statement last week saying he was not "the right person" for overseeing the nation's military.
"Chuck Hagel is a patriot, but by virtue of his views and experience, he is not the right person to lead the world's largest military organization in dangerous times," he said.
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