Udall, Bennet hedge on supporting Hagel nomination

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DENVER — Colorado Sen. Mark Udall, who faces reelection next year, wouldn’t go so far as to fully pledge his support for President Obama’s pick to lead the Dept. of Defense, former Nebraska Sen. Chuck Hagel.

Hagel, a Republican who opposed the Iraq war, is a tough pill for some in both parties to swallow — too conservative for some Democrats and not conservative enough for many Republicans.

Udall, a Boulder Democrat who will be seeking a second term in the Senate next year, has tried to build a reputation as a moderate pragmatist.

On Monday, his office released a statement to FOX31 Denver in which Udall seemed to hedge on Hagel.

“With a wide range of challenges facing our military, I expect that Chuck Hagel’s confirmation hearing will provide a forum for appropriate, insightful and frank discussions,” Udall said in the statement.

“If confirmed, Hagel would bring the Pentagon his remarkable experience as a combat veteran and outspoken Senate leader.  I am certainly going to approach this hearing with an open mind, and I’m looking forward to discussing his vision for the future — as well as his answers to a range of critical questions.”

Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet, also a Democrat, is also hedging on Hagel.

His office released a terse, vague statement to FOX31 Monday afternoon.

“Sen. Bennet takes seriously his role of Advice and Consent,” said spokesman Adam Bozzi. “He intends to meet with the candidates to discuss their records and experiences as part of this process.”

Several prominent Republicans have already said they’ll oppose Hagel’s nomination, and other Democrats, including New York Sen. Chuck Schumer, are taking a wait-and-see approach with Hagel’s nomination.

Schumer, who represents a large number of Jewish constituents, may be among a handful of lawmakers from the northeast who have a hard time supporting Hagel given a reference he made in 2006 to a “Jewish lobby.”

Hagel allies are working the Hill and maintaining that the former senator has an “unbroken record of support for Israel.”

President Obama also nominated John Brennan to replace acting Director Michael Morrell, who took over for David Petraeus, atop the Central Intelligence Agency.