WASHINGTON -- Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) predicted the Senate will approve the nomination of former Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.) as secretary of defense, despite criticism among members of both parties over his nomination.
"I think Sen. Hagel will be approved, and I think the history of nominees shows and I think his own qualifications also demonstrate that he has the capacity," Blumenthal said on "Fox News Sunday."
Blumenthal, a member of the Senate Armed Services committee, did not hold back his own reservations over President Barack Obama's nomination of Hagel, whose previous statements on Iran and Israel in particular have been called into question by his opponents.
"I want to know his positions on those issues, and I reserve judgment until I hear his responses," he said.
Critics have charged Hagel with being soft on Iran and questioned his loyalty toward Israel. But the former Nebraska senator's voting record shows strong support of funding for Israel and tough sanctions on Iran. Hagel also reaffirmed his belief that all options should be considered with respect to Iran, including military action, during a recently held meeting with senior Pentagon staff.
Despite his discomfort with the nomination, Blumenthal praised Hagel, a decorated Vietnam War veteran, as "someone of stature."
"He was a war hero, a combat veteran, a person of enormous personal distinction in his record of public service, in the Senate, but, also, in uniform," Blumenthal said.
Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.), appearing alongside Blumenthal, ramped up her concerns on the issue, telling host Chris Wallace she is "very troubled" by Hagel's nomination.
"The hearings on this nomination are going to be consequential," Ayotte said. "I have not made up my mind, but here's where we are. Put up his prior positions, it makes me wonder -- it perplexes me why the president nominated Sen. Hagel."
Ayotte, who also sits on the Armed Services Committee, cited Hagel's views on Iran as troubling. But the New Hampshire senator would not explicitly say whether she would oppose his nomination when pressed by Wallace.
"It is fair to say, if you look at his prior positions, that he has a lot of questions to answer about this, and I'm deeply troubled by it," Ayotte said.