Schumer, key Jewish Democrat, overcomes reservations on Hagel
January 15th, 2013
10:00 AM ET
10 years ago

Schumer, key Jewish Democrat, overcomes reservations on Hagel

Washington (CNN) - Sen. Chuck Schumer, a key Democrat and Jewish lawmaker, said a Monday meeting with Secretary of Defense nominee Chuck Hagel helped him overcome his reservations about some of the nominee's past comments. Hagel has been received skeptically by some on both sides of the aisle because of positions he has taken on Israel, Iran, and his 2007 statement that a "Jewish lobby intimidated lawmakers."

Schumer, the third-ranking Democrat in the Senate, becomes the second prominent Democrat in the last day to back the former two-term Republican senator from Nebraska.

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

"Senator Hagel volunteered that he has always supported Israel's right to retaliate militarily in the face of terrorist attacks by Hezbollah or Hamas," he said.

Schumer added, "On Iran, Senator Hagel rejected a strategy of containment and expressed the need to keep all options on the table in confronting that country. But he didn't stop there. In our conversation, Senator Hagel made a crystal-clear promise that he would do 'whatever it takes' to stop Tehran from obtaining nuclear weapons, including the use of military force."

The New York lawmaker also said their conversation "clarified a number of his past statements and positions and elaborated on several others," including Hagel's view that Hezbollah is a terrorist group and opposition to negotiations between the U.S. and Hezbollah or Hamas.

"Regarding his 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, adding he hoped the "thorough explanations will remove any lingering controversy regarding his nomination."

The 90-minute meeting was held at the White House, according to a Senate aide, and Schumer was Hagel's first face-to-face meeting with a U.S. senator regarding his nomination. It is rare for a nominee's first meeting to be with a senator who does not sit on the committee which will hold hearings on the nomination.

After the meeting with Hagel, the aide said Schumer met with President Barack Obama. Schumer reached out to Hagel Tuesday morning "to inform him he was prepared to support his nomination and wish him the best as he undergoes the full confirmation process," the aide said.

Sen. Barbara Boxer, another Jewish Democrat who represents a significant Jewish population in California, said in a telephone conversation with Hagel he "pledged without reservation to support President Obama's polices – policies that I believe have made our world safer and our alliances stronger."

The Senate aide who spoke about Hagel said the New York senator was also offered a telephone conversation with Hagel, but said the issue was important enough to merit a face-to-face meeting. Schumer returned to Washington from New York for the meeting, as the Senate is currently not in session.

On the Republican side, Sen. John McCain said Sunday he would not exert the power available to every senator to block a nomination from receiving a floor vote. The Arizona Republican maintained he has a "number of questions about his view of America's role in the world, about Iraq, about Afghanistan, about Iran, the threat of Iran." McCain said he hopes his friendship with Hagel remains despite the reservations.

Meanwhile, Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee raised questions about Hagel's "overall temperament." Other Republicans have also questioned the former Nebraska Republican senator's positions.

- CNN's Gregory Wallace, Paul Steinhauser and Ashley Killough contributed to this report

Filed under: Charles Schumer • Chuck Hagel
soundoff (72 Responses)
  1. erin

    Who cares if this was Jewish American, will we care if this was Irish, Italian, Polish ........ long list ...American?

    January 15, 2013 04:38 pm at 4:38 pm |
  2. erin

    It is a very strange definition of "ally". Is it a country that uses another country for own purposes, a country that uses the tax payer's money from the country it uses to provide armed guard for itself.....?

    January 15, 2013 04:42 pm at 4:42 pm |
  3. Rosslaw

    I'm confused. Do the teatards believe that Obama is seeking to appoint Chuck Hagel as the Secretary of Defense of the State of Israel? I think they have one already, Erhud Barak, who thinks that Obama's relationship with Israel is already outstanding. I guess its just part of a pattern where those tough-talkin' chicken hawks of the right just don't like a candidate who actually put his life at risk for his country.

    January 15, 2013 04:53 pm at 4:53 pm |
  4. Keyser

    GOP on the skids. Dog eat dog once they start losing. These GOPers have more than one lesson to learn and Barack Hussein is going to teach them more than one lesson. Epic.

    January 15, 2013 04:55 pm at 4:55 pm |
  5. sick of republican phonies

    Obama should nominate McConnell, Boehner,and Cantor for cabinet positions. The rest of the republicans will then fall all over themselves slamming these nominees, the three will be reduced to ineffectual empty suits (well, even EMPTIER suits), and the dems can get on with the business of governing.

    January 15, 2013 05:07 pm at 5:07 pm |
  6. Woman In California


    My previous comment was supposed to posted under the story about the 19 recommendations for gun control. When I selected post the story and my posted changed....UNSAT!


    It was all ignorance anyway.

    January 15, 2013 05:11 pm at 5:11 pm |
  7. Woman In California

    Like it or not, Chuck Hagel WILL be confirmed.

    January 15, 2013 05:15 pm at 5:15 pm |
  8. Brian

    What does TOP DEMOCRAT mean? Talk about ego. 100 senators, each vote count as one. They ALL need constant reminder that they work for US. They need to represent their people. Their opinion and those of the interest groups do NOT matter.
    We have a house that won't pass laws, a senate that won't vote on bills, a judiciary that won't interpret laws as they are written, and we have an admission that wants to by pass everyone else and run everything his way.... We have a full system failure. Until we are ready to fire them for not doing their jobs, they will not be serious and start doing their jobs.

    We don't want pork to feed special interest groups. We need you do to your job and represent WE THE PEOPLE and preserve America for generations to come. Both GOP and DEM suck regardless how they pat themselves on the back for any horrible deals.... they suck.

    January 15, 2013 05:46 pm at 5:46 pm |
  9. Kenman

    Who cares what this liberal thinks? Apparently most American Jews are liberals anyway, look at the polls, and care less about Israel than Republicans.

    January 15, 2013 05:49 pm at 5:49 pm |
  10. KEVIN2121961

    What choice does he have? Make enemies with the Secretary of Defense?

    January 15, 2013 05:59 pm at 5:59 pm |
  11. SCHUMER SICKENS ME...he is a total sellout to his own people...there is no doubt hagel is anti israel...

    schumer is a real sellout...hagel is obviously anti israel and it is WHY obama wants him as sec def....if israel is abandoned to the wolves in the ME, trust me, it will come back to haunt america, and the whole world...if israel is attacked in a war of annihilation, the whole world will get dragged in...obama just doesnt seem to get the long term implications of iran and egypt teaming up....its amazing that liberals are not more wary of the ever increasing despotism taking place in america under obama...and now some democratic senator is passing a bill to try and allow presidents to serve more than 2 terms? ohhhh boy....loooook out for it......

    I still want the ABC tapes of obama at the edward said dinner to be released under the freedom of information act.

    January 15, 2013 06:02 pm at 6:02 pm |
  12. 2012liberal

    GOP Circular firing squad. Lol

    January 15, 2013 06:02 pm at 6:02 pm |
  13. Laura

    If it was wrong to say Jewish lobby, why it’s ok to be Jewish Democrat or Jewish lawmaker? In this case are all groups of our population also fair presented in the Senate? Do we have Latino, African-American, Muslims, Indians, and European Descent proportionally represented interest of their group in our Senate? Obviously, the answer is no.

    January 15, 2013 06:05 pm at 6:05 pm |
  14. Jiminnm

    How much more tribute will American taxpayers have to give to Israel for his vote?

    January 15, 2013 06:33 pm at 6:33 pm |
  15. Larry L


    Who cares what this liberal thinks? Apparently most American Jews are liberals anyway, look at the polls, and care less about Israel than Republicans.
    ================================================================================================ So... you think American Christian conservatives care more about Israel than American Jews? Okay... Is this related to the hype we're seeing from the Evangelical right-wing regarding Biblical prophecies about some upcoming battle between the Christian God and the Anti-Christ? You know... I'm thinking Jesus vs. Dick Cheney? Help me here...

    January 15, 2013 06:53 pm at 6:53 pm |
  16. bigdog1

    Hagel is right on the money about the Jews.
    It is about time that we bring the subjet out of the darkness.

    January 15, 2013 07:07 pm at 7:07 pm |
  17. Facts don't Lie

    Obama won the Jewish vote not the GOP...that says enough for me.

    January 15, 2013 07:57 pm at 7:57 pm |
  18. fred ca

    Of course schmuck schumer 'accepts' hegel. A good lapdog knows his place

    January 16, 2013 12:58 am at 12:58 am |
  19. Larry in Houston

    it's too bad, if i was the owner of the "F" word news channel, there would be heads rolling, no wonder this country is in the mess it's in, their propaganda machine never quits – and they are actually scaring a lot of people in this country – pitiful – I hate to admit it, but when I turn over to that channel, I can only take about 5 minutes,(or less) I mean, the scare tactics and hypcrosy knows no bounds. After watching O'Reilly for 5 minutes, I had to go back to A/C 360 – ( and leave it there) 'ol Bill has finally Said on His Show – "" I think the Democrats are Going to Take the House in 2014 " LOL – even Krauthammer agreed with him. LOL – this is something the people on these CNN blogs have been saying for over a Month ! lol – AND, as far as Shoomer is concerned, I don't blame him for saying what he said. I agree w/ shoomer – The majority of Congress has had Jewish background for Years ! so what's the big friggin Deal ?

    January 16, 2013 05:21 am at 5:21 am |

    He's a sellout to "his own people"? He's an American. If he is going to hold being Jewish in higher regard than being American, he is living in the wrong country.

    January 16, 2013 07:41 am at 7:41 am |

    And, BTW...FOIA requests only apply to government data, not ABC's or anyone else's. Duh.

    January 16, 2013 07:41 am at 7:41 am |
  22. newyorkstuff

    Apparently Hagel sold out and may cooperate when BiBi orders a US unilateral attack. A pointless repeat of Iraq with tens of thousands of US casualties, enormous debt and a shock and awe regime change in DC. We are getting hysterical about Iran who has nothing, while N korea is developing a delivery system to reach CA. Any question about the power of the Jewish lobby?

    January 16, 2013 07:48 am at 7:48 am |
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