Hagel to meet Schumer to discuss Iran, Israel

Former Sen. Chuck HagelCharles (Chuck) Timothy HagelPentagon documents hundreds of serious misconduct cases against top brass Obama defense sec: Trump's treatment of Gold Star families 'sickens' me The Hill's 12:30 Report MORE (R-Neb.), President Obama’s pick for Defense secretary, will hold a key meeting today with Democratic Sen. Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerJuan Williams: The politics of impeachment Texas Republicans slam White House over disaster relief request Dem rep: Trump disaster aid request is 'how you let America down again' MORE (D-N.Y.), a source working on Hagel's nomination confirmed to The Hill.

In the meeting, Schumer, a strong supporter of Israel in Congress, will press Hagel to explain his views toward the U.S. ally and Iran, according to a report in The New York Times.

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The meeting is shaping up to be a key test of Hagel’s support ahead of what will be a contentious confirmation. Schumer has told aides he could back Hagel, depending on their talks, the report says. Schumer’s support could sway other Democratic senators to also publicly back the nominee.

The former Nebraska senator, who has been tapped to replace outgoing Secretary Leon Panetta, has faced sharp criticism from many senators and pro-Israel groups for his views on Middle East policy. Those critics have seized on past remarks from Hagel accusing a “Jewish lobby” of intimidating lawmakers and his calls for high-level diplomatic talks with Iran and Hamas.

Schumer is expected to push Hagel to explain those remarks and clarify his stance on Iran.

Hagel has previously expressed reluctance to support military options to prevent Tehran from developing nuclear weapons and voted against imposing unilateral economic sanctions. The report suggests that Schumer would like reassurances that Hagel would back a more forceful stance against Iran, including support for U.S. sanctions.

Hagel has said he backs the Obama administration’s current sanctions, imposed in concert with the European Union and other allies.

A source told the Times that Schumer will also ask Hagel to explain his stance on gay-rights issues and abortion.

Pro-gay-rights groups have also raised questions about his nomination, highlighting Hagel’s past comments about an openly gay ambassadorial nominee, whom the former senator described as “aggressively gay” and whose nomination he opposed.

Hagel earlier this month apologized for those remarks, but gay-rights groups have questioned whether he will be committed to enforcing the administration’s policies undoing “Don’t ask, don’t tell.”

Many GOP lawmakers have already said they would oppose Hagel’s confirmation, with many Democrats remaining on the fence.

Sens. John CornynJohn CornynGOP senator: ObamaCare fix could be in funding bill Senate GOP running out of options to stop Moore Texas Republicans slam White House over disaster relief request MORE (R-Texas), David VitterDavid VitterQuestions loom over Franken ethics probe You're fired! Why it's time to ditch the Fed's community banker seat Overnight Energy: Trump set to propose sharp cuts to EPA, energy spending MORE (R-La.) and Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzTexas Republicans slam White House over disaster relief request Dem rep: Trump disaster aid request is 'how you let America down again' Moore endorsements disappear from campaign website MORE (R-Texas) have said they would vote against him. And on Sunday, Sen. Bob CorkerRobert (Bob) Phillips CorkerBannon: McConnell 'picking up his game' because of our 'insurgent movement' State Dept. spokeswoman acknowledges 'morale issue' The Hill's 12:30 Report MORE (R-Tenn.) questioned Hagel’s “temperament,” saying that reports from former staffers about how they were treated by Hagel should be looked at during the confirmation. 

But Hagel has received strong support from the administration, which has touted his record as a combat veteran.

On Sunday, former Secretary of State Colin Powell offered a strong defense of the Pentagon nominee, calling him “superbly qualified based on his overall record, his service to the country.”

Winning Schumer’s support could be crucial with lawmakers still uncommitted to Hagel.

Independent Sen. Angus KingAngus Stanley KingFeinstein seeks contact with FBI informant in Russia nuclear bribery case Overnight Finance: Trump calls for ObamaCare mandate repeal, cuts to top tax rate | Trump to visit Capitol Hill in tax reform push | CBO can't do full score before vote | Bipartisan Senate bill would ease Dodd-Frank rules Overnight Regulation: Bipartisan Senate bill would curb Dodd-Frank rules | Opioid testing rule for transport workers finalized | Google faces state antitrust probe | Dems want investigation into FCC chief MORE (Maine) on Monday said the nominee would need to put to rest any concerns over his policy views.

“I think it depends on him convincing a number of members of the Senate, particularly Sen. Schumer, that he's got a balanced approach to the Middle East, he has the right temperament, the right background,” said King on CBS’s “This Morning.”

Jeremy Herb and Daniel Strauss contributed.

This story was updated at 10:51 a.m.