Gillibrand emerges as key figure in Hagel hearings (our updated whip list)

We've gotten some more comments from Senate Armed Services Committee members about Chuck Hagel's nomination as Defense Secretary, and one stands out.

The most skeptical Democrat appears to be Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), who had this to say in a statement about Hagel late Monday:

"Senator Hagel is a war hero who served our country honorably and was prescient in his questioning of the Iraq war. But we must look at his entire public service record in its totality in the upcoming confirmation hearings. Considering some of the statements Senator Hagel has made, and votes he has cast, particularly regarding Iran policy, tough questions must and will be asked to clarify his views before these hearings are complete. I look forward to a fair and thorough process."

Gillibrand's comment is particularly interesting given her close ties to her New York colleague, Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), a pro-Israel Democrat who is seen as arguably the most pivotal voice in this whole debate.

(Schumer this weekend declined to defend Hagel's nomination, but he doesn't sit on the Armed Services Committee and thus won't be at the hearings.)

In this Feb. 24, 2011 photo, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., is interviewed by The Associated Press, in New York. (Mary Altaffer - AP)

We're lumping Gillibrand in with the "undecideds" for now, but keep an eye on her during the confirmation hearings -- particularly as a precursor to potential resistance in the full chamber, including from Schumer.

The updated whip list below includes seven Republicans on the committee leaning 'no' and seven Democrats hinting at 'yes' votes. Twelve members remain noncommittal. Democrats hold a 14-12 advantage on the committee, so even one defection would throw the committee vote into doubt.

Near-certain 'no' votes (4)

Leaning 'no' (3)

Undecided (12)

Leaning 'yes' (4)

Near-certain 'yes' votes (3)

Updated at 6:11 p.m. to reflect Nelson's support for Hagel and Hagan and Kaine comments.

Aaron Blake covers national politics and writes regularly for The Fix.



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