Fischer, a former Nebraska state senator, was a surprise candidate in last November's election, beating more recognizable names in the Republican primary in 2012. There was speculation she might not succeed winning Ben Nelson's seat, when he chose to retire rather than run a potential losing campaign on the heels of his support for Obamacare, (and chatter over the "Cornhusker Kickback" which exempted Nebraska from paying the health care bill at the state level, which was dropped in the final legislation). Democrats relocated former Governor and Senator Bob Kerrey from New York, for a big-name candidate for the office. In the closing weeks of the campaign, Kerrey enlisted Hagel to endorse him and campaign for him.
Still, Fischer won. As she arrived to the Senate, she was appointed to the Armed Services Committee, the one that interviews Secretary of Defense nominees. She was given the chance to question Hagel, privately and publicly during his confirmation hearing, about his positions (as a former Senator from Nebraska, from his co-authorship of the 2012 Global Zero report which supports a radical reduction of nuclear arms initiated by the United States, and those he tried to express during the hearing).
Many Republican Senators announced, prior to the hearing, they would vote against Hagel for his past opposition of the Iraqi surge, which was successful in bringing stability into the country at a point where it seemed ready to destabilize. They mentioned other comments he made as a Senator, provoking supporters of Israel, while opposing sanctions in Iran. Most Democrats were willing to move ahead with the President's choice.
Some waited until the hearing. There, they did not receive a lot of help understanding Hagel's positions or what his policies would be moving forward. He showed a lack of preparation, a confusing understanding of administration and national policies, and the areas he addressed confidently were summarized in a Washington Post editorial (quoted in an open letter from Fischer in the Omaha World-Herald) as
"Mr. Hagel's stated positions on critical issues, ranging from defense spending to Iran, fall well to the left of those pursued by Mr. Obama during his first term-and place him near the fringe of the Senate that would be asked to confirm him."
Deb Fischer has announced her opposition to his nomination formally, and explained her decision in an editorial letter in the Omaha World-Herald. She is concerned his positions do not reflect mainstream American beliefs, or traditional foreign policies. She is concerned he does not have experience managing the large number of resources and assets needed to run the Defense Department, especially when it is facing the spectre of sequestration. Despite being a co-author of the Global Zero report, she felt he tried to back away and disown the strategy outlined in the report, saying it contained "scenarios" but was not a "recommendation" when she says it clearly states its purpose is to make "recommendations" several times.
Following the example of John McCain, Republican leader on the Armed Forces committee, she plans to vote against Hagel; but will not support a parliamentary block to the nomination, like a filibuster. This was repeated by others who oppose the nomination. A final vote was delayed this week, as some Senators asked for more documentation from Hagel. They want further review of his records while in Congress, which outlines details discussed in his hearing.
With apparent solidarity among the 55 Democrat and Independent Senators, and 2 known Republicans voting for Hagel (including Johanns, the senior Senator from Nebraska) the nomination appears to be on the track for passing, narrowly, perhaps next week.