The Senate Armed Services Committee today approved Chuck Hagel’s nomination as secretary of Defense, moving it on to the full Senate, where a vote to confirm Hagel may come as early as Thursday.
The vote was 14-11, with all Democrats in favor of Hagel and all Republicans opposed, except for David Vitter of Louisiana, who did not vote, NPR reports.
Hagel, a Republican, has run into opposition from his own party largely because he was a critic of the war with Iraq when he served in the Senate and has differed with the party on some other foreign policy matters. LGBT advocates, meanwhile, have concerns about Hagel because of antigay remarks he made several years ago. Most infamously, in 1998 he said gay philanthropist James Hormel, nominated by President Clinton for an ambassadorship, might be too “aggressively gay” to be effective.
Hagel has apologized for the comment about Hormel, and Hormel has accepted. Hagel has also pledged that under his leadership, there will be no discrimination against gay members of the military. “All men and women deserve the same rights,” he said in a recent Senate hearing.
Wisconsin Democrat Tammy Baldwin, the only openly gay U.S. senator, has not said how she will vote on Hagel’s nomination. Last month she told MSNBC she wants to meet with Hagel to determine the sincerity of his apology to Hormel. “I want to hear how he’s evolved on this issue,” she added.
There has been talk of a Republican filibuster to delay a vote by the full Senate on Hagel’s nomination, but this now appears unlikely, according to several media reports. The Democrats control 55 votes, a few Republicans say they will vote for Hagel, and some other Republicans oppose the filibuster tactic despite their reservations about him, reducing the chance would be sufficient support for delaying the vote.