Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) says he plans to vote to confirm former Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.) as secretary of Defense, bolstering the embattled nominee who has faced sharp GOP opposition.
Shelby's office confirmed that the senator from Alabama would back Hagel, provided there are no unexpected developments ahead of the vote.
"Yes, barring any unforeseen surprises brought to light before the vote, Sen. Shelby intends to support the nomination," Shelby spokesman Jonathan Graffeo confirmed to The Hill.
Senate Republicans last week blocked Hagel’s confirmation in a first-ever filibuster of a Defense nominee, after Democrats failed to win the 60 votes needed for cloture.
GOP lawmakers had demanded more information from Hagel and said delaying his confirmation would provide more time for them to weigh the nomination.
Senators are seeking access to his personal financial records to settle questions about whether he received foreign funding for paid speeches. In addition, some have raised questions about a speech in 2010 in which Hagel is alleged to have said that the State Department was controlled by Israel.
But over the weekend, the opposition to Hagel appeared to soften, with many senators who voted to block him last week saying that they would allow his confirmation to proceed to a final vote.
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), one of Hagel’s harshest critics, on Sunday conceded that the nominee was likely to secure enough votes for confirmation. Once the Senate ends debate on Hagel, he would only need a majority of 51 votes to win confirmation.
Shelby is the third Republican to publicly back Obama’s pick to head the Pentagon, joining Sens. Thad Cochran (Miss.) and Mike Johanns (Neb.) who said they would vote to confirm him.
He did not join the four other Senate Republicans: Cochran, Johanns and Sens. Susan Collins (Maine) and Lisa Murkowski (Alaska) who voted for cloture on Hagel's nomination last week.
The White House has also expressed confidence that Hagel will eventually be confirmed, but on Sunday, Obama chief of staff said he had “grave concern” over the delay, which he warned could threaten national security.
Shelby also said he will vote in favor of former White House Chief of Staff Jack Lew's nomination for secretary of the Treasury.
"I've known him a long time," Shelby said, according to the Alabama newspaper, referring to Lew. "I think he's honest and I think he's capable."