WASHINGTON — A Senate panel approved Chuck Hagel as President Barack Obama’s new secretary of defense on Tuesday, setting the stage for a vote on his confirmation by the full Senate, possibly this week.
The Senate Armed Services Committee voted 14-11 along party lines to approve the former Nebraska Republican senator’s confirmation to succeed Leon Panetta as the civilian leader at the Pentagon.
Sen. David Vitter, R-La., did not cast a vote or leave an instruction, but his vote would not change the outcome anyway.
Sen. Angus King, I-Maine, voted in favor of Hagel’s nomination.
“I’ve had the opportunity to meet Senator Hagel personally and hear his testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee. In both of these interactions, I believe he appropriately addressed my concerns — including the challenges of managing such a massive and complex department on dwindling resources, the threat Iran poses to its neighbors and the international community, Israel’s regional security, the importance of America’s cybersecurity, and the incredible danger of the impending sequester,” King said.
“Now, as I have previously stated, I believe the President should possess significant latitude in appointing members of his cabinet. My vote in support of Senator Hagel reflects that belief as well as my confidence in his qualifications. I am convinced that he is a man of honesty and integrity who will work tirelessly to advise the President in his best judgment and who will well lead our brave men and women in the military.”
The nomination of Hagel, 66, has met stiff opposition from some of his fellow Republicans, who raised questions about whether he was sufficiently supportive of Israel and tough on Iran.
Sen. Carl Levin, the committee’s Democratic chairman, told reporters that he hoped for a vote by the full Senate on Hagel’s nomination by the end of this week. However, he said that vote could be pushed out through the weekend if Republicans use procedural hurdles to delay it.