Hagel Hearings Set To Begin January 31

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WASHINGTON (CNN) The Senate Armed Services Committee will hold nomination hearings for former Sen. Chuck Hagel on January 31, the committee announced Wednesday. Hagel was nominated by President Barack Obama to become secretary of defense.

His nomination has been met with reservations by some senators of both parties, who point to past positions he has taken on Israel, Iran, and his 2007 comment that a "Jewish lobby intimidated lawmakers."

Sens. Chuck Schumer of New York and Barbara Boxer of California, both Democrats and Jewish, earlier this week said they had overcome their initial skepticism and would support the nomination.

Others, such as Sen. John McCain, said he would not block Hagel's nomination but that he has "very serious questions about whether he will serve in the way that I think serves America's best national interests."

The Arizonan is a key Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee and had a close friendship with Hagel when the two were Senate colleagues.

On Tuesday, Sen. James Inhofe said he left a meeting with Hagel decidedly against backing the nominee.

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has said he plans to step down and return to his home in California.