Senator Barbara Boxer, a California Democrat, said today she intends to back the nomination of former Nebraska Republican Senator Chuck Hagel to be the next U.S. defense secretary.
Boxer said her decision came after speaking with Hagel by telephone last week and receiving a written response today to her questions, according to an e-mailed statement from her office.
“He has pledged without reservation” to support President Barack Obama’s policies, Boxer said in the statement, “policies that I believe have made our world safer and our alliances stronger.”
Boxer said that she asked Hagel about several issues, including Iran and U.S. relations with Israel, as well as treatment of women and gays in the military. “His answers were reassuring and show a sensitivity and understanding,” she said in the statement.
Obama nominated Hagel, a Vietnam War veteran, to succeed Leon Panetta as defense secretary. His nomination has already run into opposition from Republicans, including Senators Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and John Cornyn of Texas.
Hagel’s critics have focused their questions on whether he sufficiently supports Israel and stepped-up U.S. sanctions on Iran, as well as on his previous remarks about the “bloated” defense budget.
Hagel, 66, apologized on Dec. 21 for comments he made in 1998 questioning whether an “openly, aggressively gay” person could properly represent the U.S. as an ambassador.