It's looking like the biggest obstacle to Chuck Hagel's confirmation as Secretary of Defense is not Republican opposition, but Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer. Or at least, Schumer wants it to look that way. Schumer has told fellow senators it will be "very hard" for him to vote for Hagel because of his past positions on issues relating to Israel, Politico's Manu Raju and Maggie Haberman report, saying Schumer's opposition "would almost certainly amount to a fatal blow" to Hagel. Schumer has been "quietly letting out the word" that he's unsure about Hagel, Politico writes, though if you look at Schumer's TV appearances, he hasn't been that quiet at all.
On December 23, before President Obama nominated Hagel, Schumer was asked on Meet the Press whether he'd support a theoretical Hagel appointment. Schumer didn't answer, saying, "I'd have to study his record. I'm not going to comment until the president makes a nomination." Politico's Playbook the next day highlighted the comment with the subheadline, "HAGEL IDEA = TOAST." Mike Allen explained, "We checked around at the top levels of Capitol Hill, both parties, and that IS the consensus." But Obama nominated Hagel anyway. On January 9, Schumer told The Wall Street Journal that "It’s too early to tell" whether Hagel will be confirmed. "I’m not going to take guesses like that until I sit down and talk to him."
But there is some skepticism that Schumer would block Obama's nominee. Politico reports that during the presidential campaign, "Schumer told Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that he was betting on the wrong candidate after he bashed the Obama administration over Iran." Al-Monitor's Laura Rozen tweets, "My read: Schumer full well realizes voting vs Hagel--&Obama-- wld be "betting on wrong candidate" as he warned Bibi." The New Republic's Noam Schieber says, "To me the question isn't whether Schumer ends up supporting Hagel, but what he extracts from Obama in return. The guy's savvy..."
The Daily Beast's Eli Lake reported earlier this week that some of the anticipated resistance to Hagel hasn't materialized:
"Staffers and members are trying to find out what AIPAC thinks of Hagel, and we are not getting anything," one Senate Republican staff member said. Another Senate staff member said, "AIPAC will be sitting this one out."
Politico reports that "despite the stand-down from some of the more vocal pro-Israel groups," the Democratic senators on the Armed Services Committee will feel pressure "to ensure specific answers on policy" in Hagel's hearings.
- Politics & Government