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Hagel Scores Backing from New York Dem. Chuck Schumer

Win McNamee/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Chuck Hagel’s prospects just got a bit brighter. New York Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer offered his blessing Tuesday morning after a 90-minute meeting with Hagel Monday, saying he approves of President Obama’s pick despite previous reservations on Middle East policy.

“When Senator Hagel’s name first surfaced as a potential nominee for secretary of Defense, I had genuine concerns over certain aspects of his record on Israel and Iran,” Schumer said in a written statement. “Once the president made his choice, however, I agreed to keep these reservations private until I had the opportunity to discuss them fully with Senator Hagel in person.

“Based on several key assurances provided by Senator Hagel, I am currently prepared to vote for his confirmation. I encourage my Senate colleagues who have shared my previous concerns to also support him.”

A former Nebraska Republican senator, Hagel has been criticized by staunch Israel backers, who have pointed to his opposition to Iran sanctions and his signature, or lack of signature, on a series of letters during his Senate tenure, indicating he backed talks with Hamas and didn’t want Hezbollah declared a terrorist organization.

Schumer is among the stauncher Israel supporters in the Democratic ranks, having criticized Obama for airing disputes with Israel too publicly.

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