Conflict & Justice

Senate confirms Chuck Hagel as defense secretary



Former US Senator Chuck Hagel, President Barack Obama's nominee for US Secretary of Defense, testifies during his confirmation hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, on Jan. 31, 2013. Facing tough questions from some senators at his confirmation hearing, Hagel said in his opening remarks that he wanted to keep America's armed forces the strongest in the world and that he supported using military force to safeguard the country's interests.


Saul Loeb

The US Senate confirmed Chuck Hagel as the next US Defense Secretary this afternoon after voting to end debate on his nomination.

Hagel was confirmed 58-41.

GOP lawmakers, who succeeded in delaying the confirmation vote earlier this month, indicated that they wouldn't hold up the process any longer, according to the Associated Press.

Senators voted 71-27 at midday to end the filibuster and proceed with a confirmation vote at 4:30 p.m. ET, according to USA Today.

From there, Hagel's confirmation was virtually guaranteed thanks to Democrats' 55-45 lead, which the AP says is "more than enough" to confirm him in a majority vote.

Republicans could have still stalled by insisting on a maximum 30 hours of debate before the final ballot, but even Hagel's critics seem to have accepted that the confirmation would proceed.

More from GlobalPost: Chuck Hagel grilled in Senate confirmation hearing

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who maintains he does not believe that Hagel is qualified for the job, said on Sunday that President Barack Obama deserved a vote on his nominee "when the questions are answered, and I believe they will be by this coming week."

"Barring some additional revelation concerning his comments on Israel and all those other really unfortunate things [Hagel] said in the past," McCain told CNN, the Senate vote will happen.

McCain and other Republicans have accused Hagel, a former GOP senator and Vietnam War veteran, of being anti-Israel and soft on Iran. They also criticised his positions on the war in Iraq and nuclear weapons, and demanded sought information on his finances and speeches to international groups as part of what the New York Times calls "a vicious and long campaign" against him.

Hagel will take over from current Defense Secretary Leon Panetta just days before the sequester is due to go into effect and trigger automatic cuts to the Pentagon's budget.