Hagel confirmed as defense secretary

The Senate confirmed Chuck Hagel as Secretary of Defense Feb. 26, ending a contentious fight over President Barack Obama’s nominee.

The vote was 58-41, with four Republicans joining Democrats in backing the president’s choice.  Republicans opposed the former two-term Republican senator from Nebraska, casting him as out of the mainstream and overly critical of Israel. But Democrats stood together for Hagel, a twice-wounded Vietnam combat veteran.

The National Jewish Democratic Council immediately issued a statement congratulating Hagel on his appointment.

“We were encouraged by and applaud Senator Hagel’s statements during the nomination process in strong support of preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons and against a policy of containment as well as his clear understanding of the importance of achieving the two-state solution,” the statement read.  “We know Secretary Hagel will support President Obama on these issues that are critically important to the Jewish community.”

The Republican Jewish Coalition, in a separate statement, said it was “disappointed” by the confirmation.  

“Chuck Hagel’s statements on Israel and the ‘Jewish lobby’ raised serious concerns about his fitness to serve. His views on Iran are also deeply troubling,” the statement read.

A number of centrist Jewish groups, including the Anti-Defamation League and the American Jewish Committee, had expressed concerns about past Hagel comments, particularly his claim in 2006 that a “Jewish lobby” “intimidates” Congress, as well as his skepticism of sanctions and military moves that would keep Iran from advancing its suspected nuclear weapons program. — jta & j. staff