New York's Senator Charles Schumer is emerging as a key player in the controversial nomination of Chuck Hagel to be the Obama administration's next defense secretary.
There's been some speculation about whether Schumer will support Hagel, because of Hagel's past positions on Israel and Iran. Schumer is the third ranking democrat, and the most powerful Jewish member, of the Senate.
Schumer said his decision will hinge on a face-to-face meeting with the nominee, which reportedly will happen this week.
“You know, there are some things he's said that I have trouble with, but he's a veteran, a decorated veteran, he was a colleague, so I owe him the courtesy and fairness to sit down and hear from him directly,” said Schumer. “So I'll ask him about some of the areas that I've heard things that I haven't particularly agreed with, and see what he says, before making a judgment.”
Schumer made his remarks while in Lowville in Lewis County. Schumer also said sequestration -- which would trigger automatic cuts to the budget, including large cuts to Defense Department spending -- would be "devastating" to the North Country economy because of the area's dependence on Fort Drum. But the senator says he is optimistic Congress and the White House will be able to reach agreement on spending issues to avoid sequestration.
“We delayed it for two months, so it hasn't taken effect yet, and I'm hopeful that we can come up with a much better solution. This is one place that both Democrats and Republicans say we must avoid, so I think, unlike some of the other issues, the tax issue or the Medicare issues, there's more bipartisan support to end sequestration,” Schumer said.
Schumer was in Lowville Friday, to announce the restoration of funding for the state's rural hospitals as part of the fiscal cliff deal.