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Senators say Chuck Hagel could face hard confirmation

Chuck Hagel, 66, is considered the leading candidate to replace Leon Panetta at the Pentagon, although a number of GOP senators have expressed reservations.

AP/File

Chuck Hagel, 66, is considered the leading candidate to replace Leon Panetta at the Pentagon, although a number of GOP senators have expressed reservations.

Two senators predicted Sunday that former senator Chuck Hagel would face a difficult confirmation if nominated by President Obama to be defense secretary.

Senator Joe Lieberman, a Connecticut independent who is retiring and would not have a vote, cited Hagel’s less-than-hawkish positions on Iran. Lieberman said on CNN’s ‘‘State of the Union’’ that it would be ‘‘a very tough confirmation process’’ and ‘‘there are reasonable questions to ask and that Chuck Hagel will have to answer.’’

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On NBC’s ‘‘Meet the Press,’’ Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina and a member of the Armed Services Committee, said it would be a challenging nomination. ‘‘I don’t think he’s going to get many Republican votes,’’ Graham said.

At least two other candidates remain under serious consideration: former Pentagon policy chief Michele Flournoy and Deputy Defense Secretary Ashton Carter.

Hagel, 66, is considered the leading candidate to replace Leon Panetta at the Pentagon, although a number of GOP senators have expressed reservations. Their concerns largely center on Hagel’s past comments about Israel and Iran.

Outside groups have suggested that based on Hagel’s remarks, he isn’t sufficiently supportive of Israel, an important ally in the Middle East.

Opponents point to his votes against sanctions on Iran and letters that Hagel signed, along with ones to which he declined to add his name.

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In August 2006, Hagel refused to sign a letter pressing the European Union to declare Hezbollah a terrorist organization, one of 12 senators who balked. In 2007, he sent a letter to Bush urging talks with Iran.

Hagel, a decorated Vietnam War veteran, has favored diplomacy over military action with Iran and criticized talk of a strike by either the United States or Israel against Iran.

Lieberman said sanctions are the only way to change Tehran’s behavior ‘‘short of war.’’ Lieberman said that Hagel had ‘‘some very outlying votes’’ against economic penalties on Iran over its nuclear program.

Senator Johnny Isakson, a Georgia Republican, said on ABC’s ‘‘This Week’’ that he will ‘‘reserve any judgment until after the hearings we have on confirmation if in fact he is nominated.’’

Hagel once made reference to the ‘‘Jewish lobby’’ in the United States, a comment that Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona, called inappropriate. ‘‘There’s no such thing as a Jewish lobby,’’ McCain said. ‘‘There’s an Armenian lobby, there’s not a Jewish lobby. There’s an Israeli lobby. It’s called AIPAC, very influential.’’

Senator Crapo of Idaho arrested on DUI charge

ALEXANDRIA, Va. — Senator Michael Crapo was arrested early Sunday morning and charged with driving under the influence in a Washington, D.C., suburb, authorities said.

Police in Alexandria, Va., said the Idaho Republican was pulled over after his vehicle ran a red light. Police spokesman Jody Donaldson said Crapo failed field sobriety tests and was arrested at about 12:45 a.m.

He was transported to the Alexandria jail and released on an unsecured $1,000 bond at about 5 a.m.

‘‘There was no refusal [to take blood alcohol tests], no accident, no injuries,’’ Donaldson said. ‘‘Just a traffic stop that resulted in a DUI.’’

Police said Crapo, who was alone in his vehicle, registered a blood alcohol content of .110. The legal limit in Virginia is .08.

The 61-year-old Crapo, a Mormon, has a Jan. 4 court date.

‘‘I am deeply sorry for the actions that resulted in this circumstance,’’ Crapo said in a statement Sunday night. ‘‘I made a mistake for which I apologize to my family, my Idaho constituents, and any others who have put their trust in me. I accept total responsibility and will deal with whatever penalty comes my way in this matter.’’

Crapo has been in the Senate since 1998, and served for six years in the House of Representatives before that. He was easily reelected to a third term in 2010 and won’t have to run again until 2016.

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