Group pushes anti-Hagel case

Christians United For Israel has more than 400 people in town this week — hailing from nearly every state in the union — to lobby against Chuck Hagel’s nomination as defense secretary.

The group’s founder and chairman, controversial pastor John Hagee, introduced Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, to the group’s Monday night dinner gathering in a Capitol Hill hotel ballroom.

Cornyn sought to fire up some of the ground troops who will be working against Hagel, a Republican who represented Nebraska in the Senate for two terms.

“This is not a matter of personalities. This is not a matter of politics. This is a matter about preserving America’s leadership in the world,” Cornyn said. “And this is about being a true friend to our allies and showing our enemies that we are united against the threat of terrorism and against the threat of a nuclear Iran.”

Cornyn, the Senate’s No. 2 Republican, was one of the first senators to publicly oppose Hagel.

Monday night, he ran through his criticisms of Hagel’s record. He cited Hagel’s past comment that the “Jewish lobby” intimidates American lawmakers.

Hagel has expressed regret for that choice of words, but has defended his record on Israel and has characterized the attacks against him as false.

Hagel has secured the support of many prominent diplomats and national security leaders, many of whom have written letters on his behalf.

He has been working the Hill aggressively over the past week, meeting with most senators in person and assuring them of his commitment to Israel’s security and to preventing a nuclear Iran.

He has won over a number of key Democrats, but is still looking for supporters on the other side of the aisle ahead of his confirmation hearing, set for Thursday.

In a likely preview of the hearing, Cornyn warned about “a phenomenon that occurs very often here in Washington D.C. and that is a ‘confirmation conversion.’”

He urged senators to press Hagel to reconcile his current and past statements.

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