President Obama didn't formally announce his controversial pick for defense secretary until 1:20 p.m. Monday, but Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) had long since weighed in. He offered his support for former senator Chuck Hagel (pictured) in a press release issued at 11:07 a.m.
Calling Hagel "a person of great ability and integrity," Leahy said the Nebraska Republican was the right person to lead the Pentagon as Congress pares back its funding.
"He is a combat veteran who still carries shrapnel in his body from his wounds — he will not need on-the-job training," Leahy added in the written statement. "I will support his nomination with enthusiasm, and I have passed that on to the president."
Vermont's junior senator, Bernie Sanders — who, like Leahy, will vote on Hagel's nomination if it reaches the Senate floor — did not immediately offer his support.
“Sen. Sanders looks forward to speaking with former Sen. Hagel about the important issues facing the Defense Department and listening to his testimony as part of the Senate confirmation process," Sanders spokesman Michael Briggs said in a written statement. "At this point, it is too early in the process for him to make a decision as to how he will vote.”