Gillibrand signals support for Hagel

Also on Thursday, Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.) said he would support Hagel on Thursday, bringing the total number of Democrats Hagel won endorsements from on Thursday to four.

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Both Gillibrand and Lautenberg were part of a group of northeastern Democrats who are hawkish on Israel and had raised concerns about Hagel when he was nominated because of his views on Israel, Iran and gay rights.

“Considering some of the statements Senator Hagel has made, and votes he has cast, particularly regarding Iran policy, tough questions must and will be asked to clarify his views before these hearings are complete,” Gillibrand said in a statement when Hagel was nominated.

Schumer, the No. 3 Democrat in the Senate, was viewed as the key vote needed to ensure the bloc of pro-Israel Senate Democrats would also back Hagel. Schumer said he would support Hagel after they met at the White House last week.

A half-dozen Republicans have said they will oppose Hagel, and none have endorsed him so far. No Democrats have come out against the nominee to succeed Defense Secretary Leon Panetta. Democrats hold a 55-45 advantage in the Senate.