Published January 15, 2013
Defense secretary nominee Chuck Hagel is walking back a string of controversial statements and positions as he courts lawmakers for confirmation to the top Pentagon post.
Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., on Tuesday outlined an expansive list of positions that Hagel has modified since he was first nominated. Schumer, who initially voiced reservations about the former Nebraska senator, said Tuesday that he plans to support him -- based on Hagel's explanation of those positions during a 90-minute private meeting a day earlier.
"It was a very constructive session. Senator Hagel could not have been more forthcoming and sincere," Schumer said.
Schumer, a prominent Democrat from New York who is Jewish, could give cover to other pro-Israel lawmakers who had voiced similar reservations about Hagel's commitment to the U.S.-Israel alliance. Other lawmakers, though, are unlikely to budge. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., for instance, has decried Hagel as an "in-your-face nomination."
According to Schumer, Hagel "clarified" a host of past positions, ranging from his stance on Iran sanctions to the relationship with Israel.
Schumer made a robust pitch to colleagues for Hagel's confirmation.
"While the Senate confirmation process must be allowed to run its course, it is my hope that Senator Hagel's thorough explanations will remove any lingering controversy regarding his nomination," he said.
Other senators have not yet reached that conclusion.
On "Fox News Sunday," Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., said he is "not comfortable yet" with Hagel's positions on Iran and Israel, while praising Hagel's military service. Hagel is a Vietnam veteran.
Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., said she is "very troubled" by the nomination.
"It perplexes me why the president nominated Senator Hagel," she said.