WASHINGTON -- Sen. Ben Cardin met with Defense Secretary nominee Chuck Hagel on Wednesday in an effort to smooth concerns the Maryland Democrat has raised about the controversial appointment.
Usually a reliable supporter of the Obama administration, Cardin issued a statement days after Hagel's nomination noting "concerns based on positions he has taken and statements he has made on a variety of topics." Cardin later reiterated those concerns on several national television networks.
Hagel, a Republican who represented Nebraska in the Senate from 1997 to 2009, has faced criticism for his past comments on Israel -- including that a "Jewish lobby" had strong-armed lawmakers -- as well as questions about his support for restrictive sanctions against Iran.
Cardin, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, offered no immediate indication about whether the 45-minute meeting allayed his concerns. As he walked from Cardin's office, Hagel said "we had a good conversation," but took no further questions.
Hagel, who has also faced criticism from Republicans, has been meeting with lawmakers at an aggressive clip. New York Sen. Chuck Schumer, the third-most powerful Democrat in the Senate, said last week he would support Hagel despite having many of the same reservations as Cardin.
In a statement, Schumer said Hagel promised to consider the use of military force to stop Tehran from obtaining a nuclear weapon and reasserted his support for the Obama administration's use of sanctions against Iran.
The Senate Armed Services Committee has scheduled Hagel's confirmation hearing for Jan. 31.
As reporters and photographers crowded Cardin's office at the beginning of the meeting, the two men stuck to sports. Cardin asked Hagel if he is a Baltimore Ravens fan. Hagel was diplomatic.
"I'm very glad that Baltimore is getting this opportunity," he said.