Senate Minority Whip John Cornyn (R., Texas) asked supporters of Israel to contact their senators to voice their concerns about Chuck Hagel’s nomination for defense secretary on Monday and said he will be reaching out to fellow senators asking them to oppose the nomination as well.
“I’m asking for your help. … Reach out to your senators and to make sure your views and your voice is heard on this nomination,” said Cornyn at a dinner hosted by the Christians United for Israel (CUFI). “I hope that you will join me in continuing to contact your members of the U.S. Senate, people who will actually be voting on this nomination.”
Cornyn has been one of Hagel’s most vocal critics in the Senate and his comments suggest he has taken an active role behind the scenes as well. As Senate minority whip and former chair of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, Cornyn has significant influence within the Republican caucus.
The senator said it was critical for the pro-Israel committee to urge their lawmaker’s to ask tough questions during the confirmation hearings, which begin later this week.
“I hope Senator Hagel is asked many hard questions,” said Cornyn. “What I fear is a phenomenon that occurs very often here in Washington, D.C., and that is a confirmation conversion.”
Cornyn outlined his main concerns about Hagel’s nomination.
“I cannot support a nominee for defense secretary who thinks we should be tougher on Israel and more lenient on Iran. I cannot support a nominee who suggested a moral equivalence between Palestinian terrorism and Israeli self- defense. And I cannot support a nominee who once advocated direct, unconditional talks with Hamas,” said Cornyn. “Senator Hagel is, in short, the wrong man for the job, and I can only hope that we defeat his nomination.”
The remarks received a standing ovation from a room of around 400 CUFI supporters.
CUFI Executive Director David Brog said in an interview after the speech that he did not expect a Republican filibuster of the nomination, but added that he saw a “shift in momentum” against Hagel this week. Part of that shift may have been due to CUFI’s action committee arm, which sent over 400 Christian leaders from around the country to Capitol Hill to lobby against Hagel’s nomination in all 100 senate offices this week.