DENVER — Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet, like all of his fellow Democrats, plans to vote in favor of the confirmation of Chuck Hagel as the nation’s next Secretary of Defense.
A final vote could come as early as Tuesday, with Republicans signalling that they won’t block a vote as they did earlier this month.
Hagel, a former GOP senator from Nebraska, has drawn strong opposition from outside groups concerned about his statements in favor of reducing the Pentagon’s budget and from many of his former colleagues and friends, most notably Sen. John McCain of Arizona and Sen. Lindsay Graham of South Carolina, who joined with other Republicans in blocking a final vote on Hagel earlier this month.
McCain clashed with Hagel over his opposition to the 2007 Iraq troop surge, which McCain supported; Hagel, who initially supported the Iraq war, has since reversed course and later opposed it, arguing that it distracted from military efforts in Afghanistan.
Some Democrats, meanwhile, along with some Republicans, have expressed additional concerns about Hagel’s past statements concerning Israel and gays.
Colorado’s Sen. Mark Udall, a Democrat, met with Hagel personally and committed to supporting his nomination after his testy confirmation hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee last month.
Bennet, now the chairman of the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee, has also met with Hagel but had yet to give a full commitment of support until Tuesday morning, just before the Senate vote to end debate on Hagel and bring his nomination to a final vote.
“Sen. Bennet has received assurances that Sen. Hagel would stand with Israel and our allies, work to strengthen Israel’s security and is committed to preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon,” Bennet’s spokesman, Adam Bozzi, told FOX31 Denver.
“Sen. Hagel’s service in combat and his record of advocating for veterans is impressive. Colorado, which has a large veteran population, could surely count on his support as our troops continue to transition to civilian life following a decade’s worth of wars.”
Bennet’s decision, while not announced until the last possible minute, is not a surprise.
No Democratic senator is expected to oppose Hagel; with Democrats holding a 55-45 majority in the Senate, he’s expected to win confirmation on a straight party-line vote.