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Senate approves Hagel as new secretary of defense

The Senate confirmed Chuck Hagel as President Barack Obama’snew secretary of defense on Tuesday, after an unusually acrimonious confirmation fight that threatened to complicate his work as civilian leader at the Pentagon.

The Senate voted 58-41 to confirm the former Republican senator, the closest vote ever to approve a defense secretary.

Just four Republicans – Mike Johanns of Nebraska, who holds Hagel’s old Senate seat, Thad Cochran of Mississippi, Richard Shelby of Alabama and Rand Paul of Kentucky – joined the Democrats and independents in support of Hagel’s nomination.

After the hard-fought victory, the Democratic president said he was pleased there had been bipartisan support for Hagel, a decorated veteran who served during the Vietnam War as an enlisted man before becoming a Republican U.S. senator.

“I am grateful to Chuck for reminding us that when it comes to our national defense, we are not Democrats or Republicans, we are Americans, and our greatest responsibility is the security of the American people,” Obama said.

The bruising battle over Hagel was one of many bitter partisan struggles between Democrats and Republicans at a time when Congress is widely criticized for its inability to agree on even the most basic measures to run the country.

The Senate had voted earlier on Tuesday to end debate on Hagel and move forward, almost two weeks after Republicans launched a filibuster to block the nomination. It was the first ever used to delay consideration of a defense nominee, prompting Democrats to accuse Republicans of jeopardizing national security…

Source: Reuters

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