SecDef Chuck Hagel Returns to His Personal Political Lions’ Den

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel enters his personal political lions' den Wednesday morning: the Senate Armed Services Committee. (Smithsonian National Zoological Park photo)

“Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more.” That famous quote dates to 1598 and the “Cry God for Harry, England, and Saint George!” speech in William Shakespeare’s play “Henry V.” But it will apply this morning when Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel faces the Senate Armed Services Committee, the panel that so roughed up Hagel during his Jan. 31 confirmation hearing.

Okay, perhaps today’s dual hearing on the Pentagon’s 2014 budget request and the situation in Syria won’t quite be Shakespearean. But make no mistake, for Hagel, if the House Armed Services Committee is something of a Capitol Hill safe haven, the Senate Armed Services Committee is his political lions’ den.

That’s because the panel’s Republican roster is packed with GOP interventionists like the “Three Amigos,” Sens. John McCain of Arizona, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire. Each had their way with Hagel during the confirmation hearing. Hagel’s philosophy on the use of American military power is far different than the one espoused by the “Amigos.”

The panel also features old-school, hawkish conservative Republicans like Sen. James Inhofe of Oklahoma and Jeff Sessions of Alabama. They are highly skeptical of any cuts to existing or planned Pentagon spending. Hagel has described the Pentagon budget as “bloated” and says some cuts can easily be made.

At the far end of the GOP side of the panel dias are new-school, tea party Republicans Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas and Mike Lee of Utah. Cruz has accused Hagel of taking funds from Iran and North Korea, and directed questions to Hagel during the confirmation hearing that were so pointed some drew gasps from Democratic members, staffers, audience members and even jaded reporters.

Will today’s session bring equal political drama? Defense News’s Senior Congressional Reporter John T. Bennett will be Tweeting during the hearing. Follow his Tweets here, and check for coverage throughout the day.

John T. Bennett

John T. Bennett

Bennett is the Editor of Defense News' CongressWatch channel. He has a Masters degree in Global Security Studies from Johns Hopkins University.
John T. Bennett