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Cochran says Hagel should ‘not be denied’ Senate vote as defense chief

Several media reports have listed Mississippi’s Thad Cochran as among at least two Senate Republicans who will support allowing a full Senate vote to confirm Chuck Hagel as defense secretary.

Late Thursday afternoon, Senate Democrats were forcing a vote to end debate on the nomination of Hagel, bringing to a head a showdown over the confirmation of the former Republican senator which faces strong GOP objections.

Cochran, in an interview with the MBJ early Thursday afternoon, said he thinks it would be wrong to deny Hagel a confirmation vote. However, Cochran would not say how he would vote on actual confirmation. “I’m not going to make a commitment” either way, he said.

Cochran, a 40-year veteran of Congress, has a friendship with Hagel that goes back to the early 1970s. Hagel, shortly after a tour as an infantryman in Vietnam, served as a congressional staffer to a House member across the hall from then-Rep. Cochran’s office. “I have known him for a long time,” Cochran said, describing him as “qualified” and “conscientious.”

Cochran said he knows Hagel, whose wife is a Meridian native, “probably better than anybody else in the Senate who is not from Nebraska.”

Incidentally, Nebraska’s senior senator, Mike Johanns, is the other Republican media reports say has pledged not to block a vote on Hagel.

Meanwhile, a showdown was developing in Washington late Thursday afternoon as Democrats tried to rally their forces for a vote on Hagel.

Here is a report from the Washington Post.



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