FOX 31's Eli Stokols:
Udall asked Hagel three questions during the hearing, focusing on Israel and the threat of a nuclear Iran, issue of cyber security and whether Hagel will ensure that gays are treated equally in the military.
“Will you ensure that the Dept. of Defense, in accommodating religious beliefs or matters of conscience, does not tolerate discrimination or harm to others?” Udall asked.
“Absolutely. I will faithfully, diligently enforce our laws,” Hagel responded. “All men and women deserve the same rights and I can assure you that that will be a high priority, that I will enforce that and assure that in every way throughout the entire line, the chain of command and accountability.”
Leading to this statement from Sen. Mark Udall's office late yesterday:
"Sen. Hagel showed me today and throughout his confirmation process that he understands the issues facing the U.S. military, and that he agrees we need to pursue a smart, but tough national security policy. I believe he will stand with Israel and our allies, take every necessary step to prevent a nuclear Iran, treat all service members equally regardless of their sexual orientation and strengthen our cybersecurity," Udall said. "Without question, Chuck Hagel will bring his remarkable experience as both a combat veteran and an outspoken Senate leader to the Pentagon. I intend to support Sen. Hagel’s confirmation as our country's next Secretary of Defense."
Udall met with Hagel in mid-January to discuss a wide range of issues, including appropriate levels of military spending and his concerns about Hagel's past statements about Iran and the United States' relationship with Israel. During that meeting and at the hearing today, Udall pressed Hagel to affirm that every option is on the table with regard to Iran's potential acquisition of nuclear weapons, including the use of military force. Then and today, Udall also urged Hagel to support the Department of Defense’s role in leading cybersecurity efforts and training warriors in Colorado for this new battlefront.
Udall, who led efforts to repeal the discriminatory Don't Ask, Don't Tell Policy, also successfully pressed Hagel today to clearly state that all service members will be treated the same, regardless of their sexual orientation.
Bottom line: even though former Republican Senator Chuck Hagel had already made many assurances that he had matured from prior negative statements about an openly gay man nominated for a diplomatic post in 1998, there was of course a need for the matter to be aired in public. Everything we've heard suggests that the LGBT advocacy community–a very powerful force in Colorado politics–is satisfied with Hagel's answers on the subject yesterday. Hagel's frankness on issues like the Iraq war predispose him favorably to most Democrats including Udall, so with this matter addressed, his approval, at least by the Senate Armed Services Committee, is looking better.
With 53 Democrats plus two independents who vote with the party in the Senate, Mr. Hagel, 66 years old, would seem to have enough support to win approval. Republicans now face the potentially explosive decision about whether to filibuster his nomination, which would mean Mr. Hagel would require the support of 60 senators.
An outright filibuster of a cabinet nominee would be unprecedented. Senate records reflect no instance of a filibuster being used to block a cabinet nominee, although nine have been defeated outright, without filibusters, and another 12 were withdrawn, sometimes in the face of a filibuster threat. Such a move also would engender Democratic anger and bitterness that could spill over into other areas.
We'd say maybe this quibble over the "surge" isn't worth a knock-down drag-out brawl, but we'll have to wait and see if John McCain agrees.