Sen. Tammy Baldwin issued a statement Wednesday confirming she will support former senator Chuck Hagel as secretary of Defense.
Baldwin, the first out senator ever elected, confirmed she will vote for Hagel's confirmation even though he previously made antigay statements. The Wisconsin senator said she had met with Hagel and praised him for "the humility to admit mistakes and learn from them."
Hagel had already apologized for calling James Hormel too "aggressively gay" to become a U.S. ambassador when nominated during the Clinton administration. Hormel accepted the apology and has also since supported Hagel for confirmation.
Baldwin did not address the controversy directly in her statement, saying only that "I had questions on a number of issues." But she had publicly withheld support since telling MSNBC she needed to meet with Hagel to see whether his apology was "sincere."
Arizona senator John McCain is waffling on whether he will seek to prevent a vote on Hagel's nomination through a filibuster. Republican Missouri senator Roy Blunt indicated his party has the votes to sustain a filibuster, which could delay a full Senate confirmation vote on Hagel.
Read Baldwin's complete statement below:
“Protecting our national security with a strong defense is a responsibility I have always taken seriously. We face big challenges here at home and abroad, including our fight against terrorism, dealing with instability in the Middle East and North Africa, confronting nuclear weapons proliferation, addressing the growing threat of cyber-attacks, and bringing our troops home from Afghanistan to their families in a safe and responsible manner. As we work to meet these challenges, America must maintain our ability to lead and strengthen our alliances around the world. For over a decade our military and federal budget has been stretched thin fighting two long wars. Now as we face budget challenges, the Defense Department must find ways to be more efficient and effective in maintaining a 21st century military. When President Obama nominated Chuck Hagel for Secretary of Defense, I had questions on a number of issues, as did many of my colleagues. Our questions deserved answers and his nomination demanded a fair and thorough review. I have now had an opportunity to meet with Senator Hagel personally and speak with him directly about the challenges the Department of Defense will confront and his vision for leading the Pentagon. In our meeting, Senator Hagel showed refreshing sincerity and candor. In addition, he presented a quality that is not seen enough of in Washington and will serve our country well in the role of Secretary of Defense, the humility to admit mistakes and learn from them. After my meeting with Senator Hagel and the confirmation hearing process, I am confident that he will serve as an effective member of President Obama’s national security team and carry out the President’s vision of a 21st century military that reflects our American values. I will vote to confirm President Obama’s nomination of Chuck Hagel. I have no doubt that he will serve as Secretary of Defense with the same integrity that he served our country as a war hero who earned two Purple Hearts. As a decorated war veteran, he has the military experience necessary to understand the needs of our troops and be an advocate for the men and women in our military. Senator Hagel has the national security qualifications and commitment to lead our service men and women that the people of Wisconsin and America want and deserve in their Secretary of Defense.”