The U.S. Senate confirmed Chuck Hagel as secretary of defense, largely along party lines.
The Senate voted 58-41 to confirm Hagel on Tuesday afternoon, with 54 senators in the Democratic caucus joining four Republicans in voting for him.
The Democratic-led Senate had sought to confirm President Obama’s nominee earlier this month, and the Armed Services Committee approved him in a 14-11 vote on Feb. 12.
But Republicans used Senate rules to prevent a full vote, seeking further review of allegations that Hagel had made remarks critical of Israel and derogatory of Jews during and after his career as a Republican senator from Nebraska.
In recent days, however, some of Hagel’s toughest critics said they would allow a full vote, and earlier on Tuesday the Senate voted 71-27 to end debate, 11 more than the necessary 60 votes.
Among the Republicans voting to push the nomination were a trio of Hagel’s toughest pro-Israel critics, Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.), Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.). All three voted against his actual confirmation, which needed only a simple majority to pass.
A number of centrist Jewish groups, including the Anti-Defamation League and the American Jewish Committee, had expressed concerns about past Hagel comments, particularly his claim in 2006 that a “Jewish lobby intimidates” Congress, as well as his skepticism of sanctions and military moves that would keep Iran from advancing its suspected nuclear weapons program.
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