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Shaheen praises Hagel as Pentagon pick, while Ayotte voices concern

  • Former N.H. Gov. Jeanne Shaheen smiles after the unveiling of her portrait, in background, at the N.H. Historical Society in Concord, N.H. Thursday, May 17, 2007.  The official portrait of New Hampshire's first elected female governor soon will hang in the Statehouse _ the only portrait of a woman among many portraits of male governors. (AP Photo/Cheryl Senter) (AP Photo/Cheryl Senter)

    Former N.H. Gov. Jeanne Shaheen smiles after the unveiling of her portrait, in background, at the N.H. Historical Society in Concord, N.H. Thursday, May 17, 2007. The official portrait of New Hampshire's first elected female governor soon will hang in the Statehouse _ the only portrait of a woman among many portraits of male governors. (AP Photo/Cheryl Senter) (AP Photo/Cheryl Senter) Purchase photo reprints at PhotoExtra »

  • Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H. speaks as Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., stands at left  during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Jan. 6, 2011. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

    Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H. speaks as Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., stands at left during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Jan. 6, 2011. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak) Purchase photo reprints at PhotoExtra »

  • Christopher Renaud demonstrates timed cup stacking for the Concord School Board; Monday, January 7, 2012. Renaud was joined by  other members of the Beaver Meadow Elementary School Cup Stacking Club to showcase their skills at the school board meeting. Renaut has been cup stacking for 3 years, he learned it from his neighbor, Jim Kinhan, who started the cup stacking club at Beaver Meadow 7 years ago. The world record for cup stacking is 5.68 seconds, Renaud's personal record is 14 seconds.<br/><br/>(SAMANTHA GORESH / Monitor Staff)

    Christopher Renaud demonstrates timed cup stacking for the Concord School Board; Monday, January 7, 2012. Renaud was joined by other members of the Beaver Meadow Elementary School Cup Stacking Club to showcase their skills at the school board meeting. Renaut has been cup stacking for 3 years, he learned it from his neighbor, Jim Kinhan, who started the cup stacking club at Beaver Meadow 7 years ago. The world record for cup stacking is 5.68 seconds, Renaud's personal record is 14 seconds.

    (SAMANTHA GORESH / Monitor Staff) Purchase photo reprints at PhotoExtra »

  • Former N.H. Gov. Jeanne Shaheen smiles after the unveiling of her portrait, in background, at the N.H. Historical Society in Concord, N.H. Thursday, May 17, 2007.  The official portrait of New Hampshire's first elected female governor soon will hang in the Statehouse _ the only portrait of a woman among many portraits of male governors. (AP Photo/Cheryl Senter) (AP Photo/Cheryl Senter)
  • Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H. speaks as Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., stands at left  during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Jan. 6, 2011. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)
  • Christopher Renaud demonstrates timed cup stacking for the Concord School Board; Monday, January 7, 2012. Renaud was joined by  other members of the Beaver Meadow Elementary School Cup Stacking Club to showcase their skills at the school board meeting. Renaut has been cup stacking for 3 years, he learned it from his neighbor, Jim Kinhan, who started the cup stacking club at Beaver Meadow 7 years ago. The world record for cup stacking is 5.68 seconds, Renaud's personal record is 14 seconds.<br/><br/>(SAMANTHA GORESH / Monitor Staff)

New Hampshire’s senators appeared to split yesterday on President Obama’s nomination of Chuck Hagel as the next U.S. defense secretary, with Democrat Jeanne Shaheen calling him “a voice of pragmatism and principle” and Republican Kelly Ayotte expressing concern about some of his positions.

Neither senator said if they would vote for or against the moderate Republican former senator from Nebraska. Ayotte and Shaheen both sit on the Senate Armed Services Committee, which will review Hagel’s nomination ahead of a confirmation vote by the U.S. Senate.

But in statements, Shaheen was complimentary of Hagel while Ayotte was cautious.

“While I deeply respect Sen. Hagel’s brave service in Vietnam, I am concerned by several positions he took as a senator ­– particularly his long-standing opposition to increased Iran sanctions and his views regarding Hezbollah and Hamas, as well as our close ally Israel,” Ayotte said. “As the Armed Services Committee reviews his nomination, I will vigorously question him on these and other issues.”

Shaheen said Hagel, throughout his career, “has proven to be a strong and independent leader. He valiantly defended our nation in Vietnam where he earned two Purple Hearts and in the Senate served as a voice of pragmatism and principle. I look forward to speaking with Sen. Hagel and considering his nomination.”

Hagel served in the Senate from 1997 to 2009. He’s been criticized in recent weeks over past statements on, among other things, his opposition to sanctions on Iran and the influence of the “Jewish lobby” on U.S. policy toward Israel.

Obama announced Hagel’s nomination yesterday, calling him “the leader that our troops deserve” and a champion of soldiers and veterans.

“For his independence and commitment to consensus, he’s earned the respect of national security and military leaders, Republicans and Democrats ­— including me,” Obama said. “In the Senate, I came to admire his courage and his judgment, his willingness to speak his mind ­— even if it wasn’t popular, even if it defied the conventional wisdom.”

(Ben Leubsdorf can be reached at 369-3307 or bleubsdorf@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @BenLeubsdorf.)

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