COLUMBIA — New U.S. Sen. Tim Scott said Monday he’s leaning against supporting President Barack Obama’s nominee to lead the Department of Defense, but said he wants to hear more before forming a final opinion on Obama’s new candidates.
Following an appearance before the Columbia Rotary Club, part of a statewide tour Scott launched Monday, Scott said former Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel, Obama’s nominee to lead the Defense Department, and John Brennan, the president’s pick to head the CIA, deserve the opportunity to address criticisms.
“We’ll have to hear from Sen. Hagel and have an opportunity to address the issues that come up and ask some very tough questions,” said Scott, who was sworn in last week. “But at this point, it’s hard for me to determine where and how I’m going to vote; probably not heading in his direction right now but things could change.”
Obama announced both nominations Monday.
Hagel has come under bipartisan criticism for once referring to Israel supporters as the “Jewish lobby,” his approach to dealing with Iran and in 1998 describing an ambassador nominee as “openly, aggressively gay.”
Hagel has apologized for the latter comment and has said his record is being distorted.
South Carolina’s senior U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham told CNN on Sunday that Hagel is a “controversial pick” and “an antagonistic figure when it comes to the state of Israel.”
Brennan, who worked at the CIA for 25 years, has faced his own criticism related to the use of so-called “enhanced interrogation techniques,” including waterboarding, during the George W. Bush administration.
Brennan has said he was not involved in the use of the controversial tactic and that he opposes it.
Scott noted Brennan’s long-time service but said his confirmation hearing will be an important opportunity to address his ties to waterboarding and other issues.
Reach Stephen Largen at 864-641-8172 and follow him on Twitter @stephenlargen.
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