February 13, 2013 at 10:25 am EST | by Chris Johnson
Baldwin to support Hagel for Defense Secretary
Tammy Baldwin, United States Senate, Wisconsin, Democratic Party, gay news, Washington Blade

Sen. Tammy Baldwin said she’ll support the nomination of Chuck Hagel (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) signaled on Tuesday evening she intends to join fellow Democrats in supporting the nomination of Chuck Hagel for Defense Secretary.

“I had a chance to have a very good discussion with Sen. Hagel and intend to support him,” Baldwin told the Washington Blade on Capitol Hill following the State of the Union address.

On Tuesday, the Senate Armed Services Committee reported out Hagel’s nomination to the floor by a 14-11 vote along party lines. The nomination of Hagel has riled Senate Republicans with whom he once he served in the U.S. Senate, who’ve opposed on his nomination based on comments he’s made on Israel and Iran.

But the nomination has also been controversial in the LGBT community because of remarks Hagel made in 1998, when he said the U.S. ambassador to Luxembourg shouldn’t be confirmed to the post because he’s “openly aggressively gay.” Hagel also had a dismal voting on LGBT issues during his tenure in the U.S. Senate. Hagel has since apologized for the anti-gay remarks.

Moreover, Hagel has expressed a commitment to gay service members, saying he supports “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal and pledged as part of testimony before the Senate to move “expeditiously” on implementing benefits for troops with same-sex partners.

Baldwin, the only openly gay person in the Senate, initially withheld support from Hagel, telling MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell last month she’d “ask some tough questions” about his views on the post-“Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” military to “see if his apology is sincere and sufficient.”

While Democrats like Baldwin — including Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) — have signaled they’ll support Hagel, Republicans have pledged to derail the nominee’s confirmation. Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) has said he would filibuster the nominee. It’s unclear whether Hagel has the 60 votes necessary to overcome a filibuster for confirmation.

Chris Johnson is Chief Political & White House Reporter for the Washington Blade. Johnson attends the daily White House press briefings and is a member of the White House Correspondents' Association. Follow Chris

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