Sen. Charles E. Schumer said Tuesday he will vote to confirm former Sen. Chuck Hagel to be secretary of defense, clearing a major hurdle to President Obama's pick for the Pentagon chief.
Mr. Schumer previously said he had worries over some of Mr. Hagel's past statements on Iran and Israel, and on gay rights, but said Mr. Hagel gave him assurances on all of those.
"I know some will question whether Senator Hagel's assurances are merely attempts to quiet critics as he seeks confirmation to this critical post. But I don't think so," Mr. Schumer said. "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. His views are genuine and reflect this new reality."
Mr. Schumer said Mr. Hagel assured him he believes Israel has the right to retaliate against attacks by Hezbollah or Hamas.
Mr. Hagel also told Mr. Schumer he is committed to seeing through implementation of the repeal of the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy that prohibited gay troops from serving openly.
Mr. Schumer's support makes it tougher for other Democrats to oppose Mr. Hagel, but it does little to erase the concerns of Republicans, many of whom have signaled they cannot support Mr. Hagel.
The former Nebraska senator, who served as a Republican, angered many in his party by supporting Democrats in elections and by taking a starkly divergent view on key military policy questions.
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