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Hagel Nears OK Vote

Washington — Fifteen GOP senators called on President Obama to withdraw Chuck Hagel’s nomination to lead the Pentagon, even as support from another Republican increased the likelihood he will be confirmed when Congress returns from recess next week.

In a letter to the White House, senators warned it would be unprecedented for such a controversial choice to be installed at the Defense Department.

“Over the last half-century, no Secretary of Defense has been confirmed and taken office with more than three senators voting against him,” the group, led by Senate Minority Whip John Cornyn, R-Texas, and Senate Armed Services Committee ranking member James Inhofe, R-Okla., wrote. “In the history of this position, none has ever been confirmed with more than 11 opposing votes. The occupant of this critical office should be someone whose candidacy is neither controversial nor divisive.”

The letter said Hagel’s “deeply concerning” performance at his confirmation hearing raises doubts about his “basic competence to meet the substantial demands of the office.”