Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY); Photo Courtesy AP
By David Jackson, USA TODAY
Defense secretary nominee Chuck Hagel picked up a key endorsement Tuesday from U.S. senator and Democratic leader Charles Schumer.
"Based on several key assurances provided by Senator Hagel, I am currently prepared to vote for his confirmation," the New York Democrat said in a statement. "I encourage my Senate colleagues who have shared my previous concerns to also support him."
While Hagel is a former Republican senator from Nebraska, some current Senate Republicans have opposed his nomination by saying he has been too critical of Israel and not critical enough of Iran.
Schumer, the Senate's No. 3 Democrat, had declined to endorse Hagel, but said the nominee allayed concerns during a 90-minute meeting that took place Monday at the White House.
The endorsement likely smooths Hagel's path to confirmation in the Democratic-run Senate.
In a written statement, Schumer said that Hagel "expressed the need to keep all options on the table" in confronting Iran over the means to make nuclear weapons.
Hagel also said he supports "Israel's right to retaliate militarily in the face of terrorist attacks by Hezbollah or Hamas," Schumer said.
"Regarding (Hagel's) unfortunate use of the term 'Jewish lobby' to refer to certain pro-Israel groups, Senator Hagel understands the sensitivity around such a loaded term and regrets saying it," Schumer said.