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Senators signal tough fight for Hagel

Former Nebraska lawmaker, Chuck Hagel, is reportedly in line to be nominated for U.S. secretary of defense. NBC's Peter Alexander reports.

Senators on Sunday indicated a tough confirmation fight for former Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel, President Barack Obama's reported pick to be the next Secretary of Defense.

On NBC's "Meet the Press," Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said that Republicans in the upper chamber would treat Hagel "fairly" but that his past statements on Israel and Iran will be subject to tough scrutiny. 

"I think he'll be subjected to the same kind of oversight hearings that any nominee for such an important position would expect," McConnell said. "And his views with regard to Israel, for example, and Iran and all the other positions that he's taken over the years will be very much a matter of discussion in the confirmation process."

Sen. Angus King, who sits on the Armed Services Committee, previews the upcoming nomination of former Sen. Chuck Hagel to become secretary of state.

"I think there will be a lot of tough questions for Sen. Hagel, but he will be treated fairly by Republicans in the Senate," he added. 

That statement fell short of McConnell's past praise for his fellow Republican, a Vietnam War veteran and Purple Heart recipient who served in the Senate for three terms.  When Hagel left the Senate, McConnell called him "a clear voice on foreign policy and national security."

During a pre-taped appearance on ABC's "This Week," McConnell appeared to back off that view, saying only that Hagel has been "outspoken" on foreign policy issues. "The question we will be answering if he's the nominee is 'do his views make sense for that particular job?'" he said.

Hagel has earned foes on both sides of the aisle for past statements about Israel -- notably his comment about how the "Jewish lobby" tries to influence lawmakers in D.C. -- as well as for his calls for direct negotiations with Palestinian group Hamas. He has also voted against some Iran sanctions and was heavily critical of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. 

Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell discusses the goals his party is aiming toward in the upcoming Congress.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., called the reported pick an "in your face nomination" by the president, while new Sen. Ted Cruz blasted Obama for ignoring bipartisan criticism of his reported pick for the Pentagon job. 

"This is a president who has drunk the tea," Cruz said on Fox News Sunday "He's high on re-election right now."

Cruz said that he is "concerned" about Hagel's past statements. 

Newly-elected independent Sen. Angus King of Maine said on "Meet the Press" that he would "reserve judgement" until the confirmation process begins, saying he believes generally that the president should be given considerable leeway to fill his cabinet as he sees fit. 

"But I'm going to want to ask some serious questions and hear from Senator Hagel about the issues," he added. "He's a guy with a distinguished record and I'm going to listen to the answers." 

Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, a freshman Democrat from North Dakota, said that the looming fight over the expected nomination merely highlights the Washington gridlock disliked by the American public.

"Chuck Hagel is a tremendous patriot and statesman," she said on ABC. "He hasn't had a chance to speak for himself, so why all the prejudging? I don't know."