Sen. Charles Schumer (D-New York) said Tuesday that he will vote to confirm Chuck Hagel for Secretary of Defense, after meeting with the former Nebraska Republican and receiving assurances on his positions on Iran and Israel. The endorsement from Schumer, the third ranking Democrat in the Senate who commands wide respect in the pro-Israel community, is likely to significantly ease Hagel’s path to Senate confirmation.
“In a meeting Monday, Senator Hagel spent approximately 90 minutes addressing my concerns one by one,” Schumer said in a statement Tuesday. “It was a very constructive session. Senator Hagel could not have been more forthcoming and sincere.”
“Based on several key assurances provided by Senator Hagel, I am currently prepared to vote for his confirmation,” Schumer continued, adding that he encourages his fellow Senate colleagues who shared such concerns to also support him.
Schumer’s public endorsement of Hagel came a day after Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-California) also announced that she would confirm Hagel, after receiving detailed assurances from him on Israel, Iran, fair treatment of gay troops, and efforts to combat sexual assault in the military.
“After speaking extensively with Senator Hagel by phone last week and after receiving a detailed written response to my questions late today, I will support Senator Hagel’s nomination as Secretary of Defense,” Boxer said in a statement Monday.
“First and foremost, he has pledged without reservation to support President Obama’s polices – policies that I believe have made our world safer and our alliances stronger,” Boxer said.
Hagel, in an accompanying letter to Boxer, said he “has long supported economic sanctions that are applied in concert with allies and partners. I strongly supported the Obama administration’s approach which has brought to bear unprecedented multilateral sanctions on Iran, including UN Council Resolution 1929.”
“Regarding unilateral sanctions, I have told the President that I completely support his policy on Iran,” Hagel continued. “I agree that with Iran’s continued rejection of diplomati overtures, further economic sanctions, both multilateral and unilateral-may be necessary and I will support the President.”
Schumer’s endorsement in particular is likely to steady any wavering Senate Democrats to vote in favor of Hagel, among them the junior Senator from New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand as well as Sen. Richard Blumenthal, the Connecticut Democrat. Confirmation requires a simple majority, but 60 votes to overcome a hold or filibuster. The Democrats hold 55 of the Senate seats.
“Schumer’s support of Hagel will mean the 8-10 wavering Senate Dems will all now likely support,” NBC’s Chuck Todd wrote on Twitter Tuesday. “Schumer is the cover for them.”