Hagel, who has been making the rounds on Capitol Hill for weeks, will have to convince his former GOP colleagues that he supports tough policies on Iran and a focus on prevention rather than containment.
But Hagel, who came under fire from the left for comments he made in 1998 about an ambassador nominee he called “openly, aggressively gay,” will field tough questions from Democrats about his commitment to the continued implementation to the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell.”
In his written responses to the committee, Hagel stressed that he fully supports the repeal of the 1993 law (PL 103-160) that banned openly gay servicemembers. He added that he would work to extend personnel benefits to the families of gay members of the military, a top priority for gay rights advocates.
“If confirmed, I will do everything possible to the extent permissible under current law to provide equal benefits to the families of all our servicemembers,” he wrote.
Democrat Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin, the first openly gay senator, had expressed concerns about Hagel’s earlier comments. She said Tuesday that she had a “very productive meeting” with the nominee last week and “had a very positive sense at the end of it.”
Vice President Joe Biden waits to conduct a mock swearing-in ceremony with Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, in the Capitol's Old Senate Chamber, December 2, 2014. Schatz was sworn in to serve the remainder of his term since he was appointed to the seat after Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, passed away.