Hagel gets boost from Senate Democrats for Pentagon job

WASHINGTON Tue Jan 15, 2013 3:07pm EST

1 of 2. U.S. President Barack Obama's nominee for Secretary of Defense, former Senator Chuck Hagel (L), stands next to counterterrorism adviser John Brennan (R), the nominee for CIA Director, at the White House in Washington January 7, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Jason Reed

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Former Republican Senator Chuck Hagel's chances of becoming the next U.S. defense secretary received a critical boost on Tuesday when two leading Senate Democrats said they had decided to vote to confirm him.

U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the No. 3 Democrat in the Senate, said his concerns over Hagel's positions on Israel, Iran and other issues were addressed during their 90-minute meeting on Monday. He described Hagel as "forthcoming and sincere."

"Based on several key assurances provided by Senator Hagel, I am currently prepared to vote for his confirmation," said Schumer. "I encourage my Senate colleagues who have shared my previous concerns to also support him."

Critics including Republican legislators and conservative pro-Israel groups have sought to portray Hagel as anti-Israel and as someone who is not committed to preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon, accusations he strongly denies.

U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer, a senior member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, also said she would back Hagel.

The four-term California senator had held off announcing her support. On Tuesday, she said Hagel would have her vote -- after they had had a long conversation and after he wrote her a letter spelling out his positions on Iran, Israel, and the treatment of gays and women in the military.

"We spoke for quite a while last week and I was very pleased with that conversation," Boxer told reporters on a conference call from California.

She said she had not been aware of Schumer's announcement and that the two had made their decisions independently.

"I urge more of my colleagues to come out because from what I've seen is there seems to be a Republican push here to really go after Senator Hagel, which is really quite disturbing," Boxer said.

IRAN, ISRAEL, BUDGET

A decorated Vietnam veteran who split from fellow Republicans by opposing the U.S.-led war against Iraq, Hagel was nominated by President Barack Obama on January 7 to replace outgoing Defense Secretary Leon Panetta.

Republicans say that are concerned that Hagel opposes sanctions and is satisfied with containing Iran, as opposed to preventing it from obtaining a nuclear weapon. They also worry that Hagel would not prevent inordinately deep Pentagon budget cuts.

Some conservative senators have already declared their intention to vote against the former Nebraska senator.

"A record of extreme views makes Hagel an unwise pick, and the president's decision points to more rancorous fights to come," Mississippi Republican Roger Wicker, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, wrote in Politico.

The committee will hold confirmation hearings at the end of the month or in early February, Senate aides said.

Republicans also criticized a 2006 reference by Hagel to the influence of the "Jewish lobby" in Washington. Hagel has acknowledged that he misspoke and his defenders say such concerns are overblown.

"He told me that if there's one thing in his life that he'd like to take back, it's that. And he was very devastated about it looking back," said Boxer, who served on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee with Hagel for 10 years.

Schumer and Boxer are both Jewish, and their decisions bolster the likelihood Hagel will win Senate confirmation.

Hagel has spent much of the past week calling and writing senators whose votes could be crucial for his confirmation.

Hagel is expected to garner votes from all 53 Senate Democrats and between 10 and 15 Republicans, according to one observer who has been counting votes.

(Additional reporting by Kim Dixon, Phil Stewart and Mark Hosenball; editing by Doina Chiacu)

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Comments (3)
smit1610 wrote:
Oh gee, what a surprise! What did they give him for that endorsement? Amongst many, many political hacks, Schumer ranks at the top. He is everything you hate in government.

Jan 15, 2013 11:50am EST  --  Report as abuse
Chuck Hagel nas made a phenomenal total revversal of his views on several major issues.

But in 2013, the Road to Damascus is too perilous to accept pretend conversions.

Hagel does not believe that a military option is an option even if negotiations fail.

He has just recently changed his previous stated views on this issue
to making military plans against Iran his top priority, in order to advance his career. It means he now believes that it is expedient to use the threat as
a public lever in negotiations, but if negotiations fail, he would advise in private, that the US should allow a nuclear armed Iran.
Many of those who are in favor of confirmation such as Nicholas Kristof, writing in the New York Times, have said the same thing. Iran certainly understands this, and is rooting for him.

A nuclear Iran has sworn to eliminate Israel and every mosque in Iran has a poster “Death To Israel.”

After Iran drops an atomic bomb over Tel Aviv, the issue of whether Hagel is anti-Israel or pro-Israel becomes mute.

Iran has a high tolerance for the deaths of huge numbers of people. The war between Iran and Iraq ostensibly over a territorial dispute concerning 0.1% of Iran’s land mass had a million casualties.
Iran has spread it’s terror all over the globe and has murdered more than a thousand Americans.
It’s ideology is identical to Al Quaeda, amd certainly has America, the Great Satan in it’s cross hairs.

A Hagel confirmation kills any chance of Iran agreeing to stop it’s nuclear weapons program through negotiations. why would they take the tremendous political risk of telling their people that years of sanctions privations was for nothing when they know their is no risk of an American military action?

I believe President Obama’s primary motivation in nominating Hagel is that he thinks he would help to deeply cut the Pentagon budget, and not to poke a finger in the eye of the pro-Israel constituency.
But it is a very serious miscalculation of unintended consequences.
Several Senators and Congresspeople have made exactly the same objections.
The Senate should not confirm Hagel.

Jan 15, 2013 2:19pm EST  --  Report as abuse
sylvan wrote:
Since confirmation to a cabinet post takes a simple majority, those old gray faced GOP Senators are not really needed at all, but thank goodness they are bellowing their disapproval so Secretary Hagel will know which states bases to cut first. I think first SC bases first due to Graham Cracker; and next AZ due to MCrazy.

Jan 15, 2013 3:29pm EST  --  Report as abuse
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