New York Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer now says he plans to support former Sen. Chuck Hagel’s bid for Secretary of Defense despite the Nebraska Republican’s past statements on Iran and Israel.
“Based on several key assurances provided by Senator Hagel, I am currently prepared to vote for his confirmation,” Schumer said in a statement, according to NBC News. “I encourage my Senate colleagues who have shared my previous concerns to also support him.”
Hagel has come under fire from both Republicans and Democrats since President Obama nominated him for the post earlier this month. Schumer’s apparent ambivalence about Hagel had been seen as a potentially major hurdle for confirmation, and the two met privately on Monday to hash out any potential conflicts.
Hagel, who initially supported the invasion of Iraq only to become one of the war’s major critics, has come under fire from pro-Israel groups who say his past objections to unilateral sanctions against Iran could send the wrong message to the Islamic Republic’s leaders.
He has also expressed skepticism about whether an attack on Iran would be successful, made statements seen as critical of Israel and once referred to a “Jewish lobby” in Washington. He has since apologized for that comment.
According to Schumer, Hagel now rejects “a strategy of containment” in dealing with Iran and “expressed the need to keep all options on the table in confronting that country.”
“Senator Hagel realizes the situation in the Middle East has changed, with Israel in a dramatically more endangered position than it was even five years ago,” Schumer said.