John McCain
John McCain is a U.S. senator from Arizona. Reuters

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., said Sunday that his fellow Republicans will drop their delaying tactics on the Chuck Hagel nomination, and the ex-senator has the votes to become defense secretary.

"We will have a vote when we get back, and I am confident that Senator Hagel will probably have the votes necessary to be confirmed as the secretary of defense," McCain, who has led the opposition against his former Republican colleague and fellow Vietnam veteran, told NBC's "Meet the Press."

Asked if he plans to vote to confirm his onetime friend, McCain said, "No. I don't believe he is qualified. But I don't believe we should hold up his nomination any further."

Meanwhile, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., another leading opponent, said Sunday that Hagel sent him a letter disavowing a comment about Israel and the State Department that he allegedly made in 2007.

“I got a letter back from Sen. Hagel in response to my question, did you say that, and do you believe that? And the letter said he did not recall saying that. He disavows that statement,” Graham said on “Fox News Sunday.”

Graham was referring to a 2007 blog post indicating that in a speech at Rutgers University, Hagel said the State Department had become adjunct to the Israeli Foreign Ministry. The South Carolina Republican appeared satisfied with Hagel’s disavowal of the remark, barring new developments, the Washington Post reported.

“Well, if in fact that’s true, that would end the matter,” Graham said, adding, “I just take him at his word unless something new comes along.”

Democrats, who control the Senate, have scheduled a vote for Feb. 26, after a weeklong recess. Republicans held up Hagel last week in the first filibuster used to block a defense nominee.