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. Gregory M. Newbold

    Chuck Schumer did not want to be on the losing side of this vote. You can be assured that this experienced politician knows that President Obama was going to win this fight.

    January 15, 2013 10:09 am at 10:09 am |
  2. plain&simple

    I like that Corker states he has reservations about Hagel's "overall temperament".....that's a good laugh! Someone needs to ask Corker what he thinks about John McCain!!!!

    January 15, 2013 10:16 am at 10:16 am |
  3. jpmichigan

    Majority of the Democrats in both the Senate and the House, will follow directly on what the President and the Party wants, it is like they have no minds of their own or common sense. This is the number one problem with Congress! The America people who voted them don't matter and right or wrong along with common sense don't matter. In other words, DO WHAT I SAY, NOT WHAT YOU BELIEVE, YOU SHOULD DO.

    January 15, 2013 10:17 am at 10:17 am |
  4. chilly g

    the republicans or sore loser and they can not except the fact that the american peoples agree with the president and
    his cabinet picks. the republicans just want to be against everything the president said or do, there will not get thge white back untial they change there hateful ways.

    January 15, 2013 10:23 am at 10:23 am |
  5. much thunder.little rain

    how about a american senator....who wont ship tax dollars out of the country ...and work harder for american tax payer than the jewish lobby...

    January 15, 2013 10:26 am at 10:26 am |
  6. rs

    At the end of the day, the GOP obstructionists like McConnel in the Senate really don't give a flying flip about Israel (or whatever their lane excuse is)- all they want to do is to stop government. Blocking appointments for the Secretary of Defense, Secretary of State and Secretary of Labor is meant to just keep gumming up the works- That's how the GOP rolls-they hate America.

    January 15, 2013 10:27 am at 10:27 am |
  7. J'Cincinnati'Redd

    Hey, im all for the U.S.A keeping a close and tight relationship with Israel. But I did not like it one bit when Israel's P.M came over to our country trying to tell us what to do. I dont agree with Obama on many things, but he hit the nail on the head when he said"my number one intrest is the american people".

    January 15, 2013 10:51 am at 10:51 am |
  8. James Bond

    Jp, stop watching fox news, its so easy to tell who watches that crap, the ones spewing a 180 on the truth, the republican leaders send out memos on what response to give on any given subject, like taxing the rich will ruin the economy,despite experts and statistics showing the exact opposite is true, you have a big hook in your mouth, bet your not rich, so your cutting your own throat when you do that, tell me one thing they want that will help the middle class. and why now to fight debt cieling, never was a problem until a black man got elected

    January 15, 2013 10:51 am at 10:51 am |
  9. Larry L

    The Israel issue continues to be an "elephant in the room". They are a strong and valuable ally in a region where we need friends. The constant threat from their enemies is well-documented and Israel generally maintains the moral high-ground. Still, they continue to spread settlements into territories in violation of existing treaties. We will have a difficult time supporting an ally who plans to expand it's footprint beyond agreed upon borders. Israel isn't the 51st State and our obligation to them is limited by their inability to restrain themselves from encroaching on their neighbors.

    January 15, 2013 10:51 am at 10:51 am |
  10. Wake up People!

    @jpmichigan. Please put the pipe down. Democrats do not follow the leader, nor do they sign insane, treasonous pledges. The rethuglicans are the ones that follow orders and if they dare even try to think for themselves, they are turned on and kicked out of office. For example, Chris Christy. The GOP takes their orders from Norquist, Rush, Hannity, Beck, and other mindless, bigoted simpletons.

    January 15, 2013 10:52 am at 10:52 am |
  11. James Bond

    You dont have to be highly intelligent to get this, but you have to want whats right more than you want to hate,the republicans would never treat a white guy this way, they are the problem, do your homework, almost every single issue they lied about during the campaign, more than obvious they will destroy this country in an attempt to gan control, tell me how that is good for americans

    January 15, 2013 10:57 am at 10:57 am |
  12. Wake up People!

    @James Bond agreed. It's good to have at least one other sane person from Michigan to have discussions with. Oh btw, I totally agree about King Snyder. I loathe that guy. Yep we need a new bridge, meanwhile our rides aren't even fit to drive on.

    January 15, 2013 11:00 am at 11:00 am |
  13. ST

    Any Senator who has the nation at heart, knows there are a lot of issues on Defense to be dealt with without wasting time. Confirm the man and let him serve the nation without any delay.

    January 15, 2013 11:02 am at 11:02 am |
  14. DC Johnny

    Are we supposed to be stunned that Schumer, one of the most divisive and slimiest politicians ever to sit in the Senate, puts party before what's best for our country and its allies?

    I know I'm not surprised.

    January 15, 2013 11:03 am at 11:03 am |
  15. Wake up People!

    Oops that was supposed to be our roads aren't fit to drive on. Moving entirely too fast this morning....

    January 15, 2013 11:11 am at 11:11 am |
  16. judy

    much ado about nothing. The republicans once again use this as an excuse to disrepute the system to show their followers they are on the ball. All this unnecessary posturing is wasting the peoples time. Do they realize how stupid they look or how silly they sound. Temperament indeed!

    January 15, 2013 11:14 am at 11:14 am |
  17. James Bond

    You cant easily raise the standard of living for the controlling interest in the republican party, norquist, adleson, kochs, but they can create more seperation by lowering yours. alot of money being spent on this, think about right to work, anything but giving you more rights, so why call it right to work, unfortunately people believe alot of the crap they spew. think you got the hostess story staight, doubt it, company took dues from employees and never sent it to the union, thats stealing, and about the executives wanting to close the place so bad they fought it in court, yeah, they got golden parachutes to live out their lives comfortably, thats why they wanted it over fast. nice

    January 15, 2013 11:15 am at 11:15 am |
  18. Bill

    With Schumer's nod, Hgel wins confirmation. End of story. NExt.

    January 15, 2013 11:15 am at 11:15 am |
  19. James Bond

    Dont take my word for it look it up, it was on cspan a week or two ago, if people could only get the real truth, that is the first step, but powerful forces are making that more difficult, the less you know, the better for them, research,research, research, does wonders for perspective you know

    January 15, 2013 11:19 am at 11:19 am |
  20. sonny chapman

    Larry L & others; At the risk of being labeled as Anti-Semite, what is the AMERICAN benefit to this "alliance" with Israel ? Aren't alliances supposed to be MUTUALLY beneficial to the parties ?

    January 15, 2013 11:20 am at 11:20 am |
  21. Joi Gibson

    Mr. Bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb Iran McCain, should not be questioning anyone's world view. All he wants to do is attack in order to show our might. I think the majority of us would prefer diplomacy any day. I believe it was General Powell who made an interesting observation on Meet The Press, Iran may be crazy but is not stupid enough to bring the U.S. and the rest of the world down on them by attacking Israel with a nuclear weapon; we could wipe them off the face of the earth. And Corker talking about someone's temperament – he might want to look at his own party.

    January 20, 2013 = PRESIDENT BARACK H. OBAMA (2d term)!!!!!!! I am looking forward to watching the festivities on January 21. I hope the President and First Lady walk down Pennsylvania Avenue again.

    January 15, 2013 11:33 am at 11:33 am |
  22. John the Historian

    Schumer did the right thing. Hagel will benefit a foreign policy of the USA. Schumer realizes Israel must be restrained at times and that the time for a Palestinian state is a must. Israel is losing the demographic war with the Palestinians. There are 6 million Palestinians in Israel and the occupied territories and their number is going up. Locking 2 million Palestinians in the ghetto of the Gaza strip is not solving any problem. Why Israel doesn't encourage infaith dialogue, multiculturalism and intermarriage with the Palestinians is beyound comprehension. Switzerland works well with its three ethnic groups. We need peace and Hagel realizes this. The war Bibi wants with Iran, a country of 80 million would be a disaster. Hell the US could not handle the 29 million people in Iraq with a suicide attack every day and 200 billion dollar war debt that we are still paying off ofr President Cheney and his war profits for Halliburton and over 4, 500 dead Americans and ten of thousand of disabled veterans. Wars are only death, destruction, disease, and horror.

    January 15, 2013 11:42 am at 11:42 am |
  23. Vomitimous Dispicitus

    Last time anyone checked Barack Obama was just reelected president. He sets the policy for his administration not his cabinet members. All this wringing of hands by conservatives is just another pathetic attempt by Republicans to deny Obama his choices. There is nothing in Hagel's background that disqualifies him from running the Pentagon.

    January 15, 2013 01:46 pm at 1:46 pm |
  24. Angry Citizen

    Last time anyone checked Barack Obama was just reelected president. He sets the policy for his administration not his cabinet members. All this wringing of hands by conservatives is just another pathetic attempt by Republicans to deny Obama his choices. There is nothing in Hagel's background that disqualifies him from running the Pentagon.

    January 15, 2013 01:47 pm at 1:47 pm |
  25. Wake up People!

    @Angry Citizen. Shhhh! No one is supposed to realize he won reelection......

    January 15, 2013 02:30 pm at 2:30 pm |
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