Washington Secrets

Top GOP aide: 'We'll confirm Hagel, Kerry'

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Politics,Paul Bedard,Washington Secrets

The growing possibility of President Obama naming Democratic Sen. John Kerry as secretary of State and former GOP Sen. Chuck Hagel to run the Pentagon is being embraced by Senate Republicans who predict confirmation.

"I think both of them will be questioned vigorously but confirmed," said a top GOP Senate aide, meaning the GOP won't put up a fight in the Democratically-controlled chamber. That will be a key selling point as Obama considers his choices.

Reports emerged Thursday that Hagel, a Vietnam vet from Nebraska, was the frontrunner to replace exiting Defense Secretary Leon Panetta.

At the same time, the U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice, president's leading choice to replace Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, withdrew her name from consideration. All eyes immediately turned to Kerry, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and Obama's sometime emissary overseas.

Kerry is best liked of the two among Senate GOP members. "I think Kerry would sail through as secretary of State since so many senators have already said that he has the right judgment and experience for that position," said a top aide to a Senate Republican leader.

Another top aide agreed, adding that GOP criticism of Rice's handling of the Benghazi, Libya attack helped knock her out. "I think Kerry gets through fine. We won by forcing Rice out. No one liked her."

Hagel, some said, will be pressed on his criticism of Israel, but it's less of an issue at the Pentagon.

"I'd need to talk to more folks about Hagel at DoD. But he'll probably be fine," said one GOP aide. Another said, "He's a former senator and that surely will grease the wheels for him."

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