What's shaping up to be one of the more contentious nomination hearings for one of President Obama's cabinet choices is set to open at 9:30 a.m. ET when members of the Senate Committee on Armed Services get their chance to publicly grill former Sen. Chuck Hagel, R-Neb., who has been tapped for the post of defense secretary.
As Ari Shapiro reported on Morning Edition, Obama's choices of Hagel, Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., for secretary of state, and counterterrorism adviser John Brennan for CIA director, "represent a shift in the way the U.S. wages war. It's a shift from big to small, from the Pentagon to the CIA."
But today's Hagel hearing, as Defense News writes, is expected to be dominated by the issues of Israel, Iran and looming defense budget cuts and sharp questions about the nominees views:
"Since Hagel's name was floated for the post in early December, Hagel has been sharply criticized by his former fellow-GOP senators and pro-Israel groups for his past comments on the U.S.-Israel alliance, whether the Pentagon budget can and should be trimmed, how to confront Iran over its nuclear arms program, gay rights and the proper size of the U.S. nuclear arms fleet. Expect questions on all those topics."
According to the Los Angeles Times, Hagel "will stress at his confirmation hearing Thursday that he opposes letting Iran acquire nuclear weapons and will focus on developing military options to set back Tehran's program, according to a U.S. official familiar with his planned testimony."
The conventional wisdom in Washington seems to be that after some initial doubts, it's now likely Hagel will be confirmed. The Washington Post's The Fix blog this morning suggests there are "5 senators to watch" during the hearing: Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas; Sen. Kirstin Gillibrand, D-N.Y.; Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C.; Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Okla.; and Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz.
We'll monitor the hearing and post highlights later. C-SPAN.org will be streaming here.
Update at 10:45 a.m. ET. Early News From The Hearing: