Tuesday January 22, 2013 | 04:37 PM

WASHINGTON – Sen. Angus King said Tuesday that he left a meeting with Chuck Hagel – the Obama administration’s choice for defense secretary – feeling “reassured” about the former senator’s qualifications.

Even so, King insisted he is not yet endorsing the nominee.

In a statement, King said the pair discussed Israel’s security situation, threats posed by Iran and the financial challenges facing the U.S. Department of Defense. King will participate in Hagel’s nomination hearings as a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

“I was impressed by Senator Hagel’s answers and left the meeting feeling reassured about the strength of his credentials and the positions he holds,” King said. “That said, I look forward to the senator’s impending testimony before the Armed Services Committee later this month and will reserve final judgment until those hearings conclude.”

King has already said repeatedly that he prefers to give the president a certain amount of discretion to choose his own Cabinet secretaries and other high-ranking advisors.

Hagel, a former Republican senator from Nebraska, met last week with Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine. Collins said afterward that the meeting was helpful in addressing some of her concerns about Hagel’s past statements and positions, although she indicated that the two do not see eye-to-eye on some important policy issues. Like King, Collins is also “reserving judgment” on Hagel.

“We had an extensive discussion about Iran, Israel's security, and terrorist organizations such as Hamas, Hezbollah, and the Iranian Revolutionary Guards,” Collins said in a statement. “I also asked him about his statements and votes opposing unilateral sanctions against Iran.  We do not share the same views on many of these matters or the critical role Congress must play regarding these issues; however, we did have an open and frank discussion, and I have requested additional information which he has agreed to supply.”



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Kevin Miller is Washington bureau chief for the Portland Press Herald and MaineToday Media. He has worked as a journalist in Maine for 6 ½ years, covering the environment, politics and the State House. Before arriving in Maine, he wrote about politics, government and education for newspapers in Virginia and Maryland.
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