Fifteen GOP senators tell Obama to drop Hagel

But Republican Sen. Richard Shelby says he'll vote to confirm Hagel's nomination

By Jillian Rayfield

Published February 21, 2013 6:37PM (EST)

Fifteen Republican senators wrote a letter to President Obama urging him to drop Chuck Hagel as his nominee for defense secretary, because, “The occupant of this critical office should be someone whose candidacy is neither controversial nor divisive."

"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. "Over the last half-century, no Secretary of Defense has been confirmed and taken office with more than three Senators voting against him. Further, in the history of this position, none has ever been confirmed with more than 11 opposing votes."

John McCain, R-Ariz., and Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., who have both been outspoken against Hagel's nomination, were not among the senators to sign the letter.

And Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., told the Decatur Daily that he'll vote to confirm Hagel: “He’s probably as good as we’re going to get." Shelby is the third Republican to say he'll back Hagel, joining Sens. Thad Cochran, Miss., and Mike Johanns, Neb.

The senators who did sign the letter were John Cornyn, R-Texas, Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., David Vitter, R-La., Mike Lee, R-Utah, Pat Toomey, R-Penn., Roger Wicker, R-Miss., Ted Cruz R-Texas, Marco Rubio R-Fla., Tom Coburn, R-Okla., Ron Johnson, R-Wis., Dan Coats, R-Ind., Jim Risch, R-Idaho, Tim Scott, R-S.C. and John Barrasso, R-Wyo.

Republicans say they'll allow an up-or-down vote on Hagel next Tuesday.

Jillian Rayfield

Jillian Rayfield is an Assistant News Editor for Salon, focusing on politics. Follow her on Twitter at @jillrayfield or email her at

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Barack Obama Chuck Hagel Defense Secretary Lindsey Graham Marco Rubio Richard C. Shelby