WASHINGTON: Senate Confirms New Defense Secretary
Obama’s Choice Approved
Now Leon Panetta can finally retire to his farm in California. The U.S. Senate today (Feb. 26) voted to approve — by a narrow margin — the nomination of Chuck Hagel as the next Secretary of Defense.
The Senate voted 58-to-41 to confirm Hagel, a former Republican senator from Nebraska and Vietnam combat veteran, as the 24th Defense Secretary. It was the closest vote on a nominee for the Pentagon post since it was created in 1947, the New York Times reported.
The nomination was held up by his former Republican colleagues who staged a de facto fillibuster before Congress took a Washington’s Birthday break earlier this month.
In the end, only four Republicans voted for Hagel: Thad Cochran of Mississippi, Mike Johanns of Nebraska, Rand Paul of Kentucky and Richard Shelby of Alabama, the Times reported.
Hagel’s opposition to the 2007 troop surge in Iraq and sanctions against Iran earned him the enmity of conservatives. And comments critical of Israel’s influence on Capitol Hill and an openly gay nominee for an ambassadorship created more enemies who sought to discredit him for what he had said or written in years past. Senate opponents also raised questions about whether — after leaving the Senate — he was paid by foreign governments and organizations hostile to the United States. No evidence was found.
The delay in Hagel’s nomination process forced Panetta to come back to Washington from an anticipated retirement to travel to a NATO defense ministers meeting in Brussels this month. Hagel earned two Purple Hearts during service as an Army sergeant, and served as senator from Nebraska from 1997 to 2009. He is scheduled to be sworn in Feb. 27