May 26, 2013
US Senate vote on Hagel seen this week, approval expected
Senate Democratic leaders moved ahead with plans for a vote on Chuck Hagel's confirmation as secretary of defense, clearing the way for him to become President Barack Obama's new Pentagon chief despite intense opposition from some Republicans.
Senator Carl Levin, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, which must approve Hagel's nomination before he is considered by the full Senate, said he intends to ask the committee to vote during a meeting at 2:30 p.m. EST (1930 GMT) on Tuesday.
The committee, in which Democrats control 14 seats to 12 held by Republicans, is expected to approve the nomination.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said he expected the full Senate's debate on Hagel's nomination to finish by Thursday, paving the way for a vote in the chamber.
With Democrats controlling a 55-45 Senate majority, Hagel's confirmation is expected.
"We hope on Wednesday and/or Thursday we'll be able to finish the Hagel nomination," Reid said on the Senate floor.
Hagel, 66, a Republican and former Nebraska senator, has been the target of harsh criticism from senators in his own party, who raised questions over whether he is sufficiently supportive of Israel and tough on Iran.
Hagel's testimony before the armed services panel during his Jan. 31 confirmation hearing has also been criticized. Even some Democrats have said he appeared unprepared and at times hesitant during aggressive questioning by Republican committee members.
Hagel's backers, convinced he will succeed the retiring Leon Panetta at the Defense Department, have called Republican delays and threats to prevent a vote on his nomination political posturing that threatens national security.
"We believe firmly that ... Senator Hagel will be confirmed as the next secretary of defense," White House spokesman Jay Carney told a news briefing on Monday.
No Democrat has come out against Hagel, and at least two Republicans - Senator Thad Cochran of Mississippi and Mike Johanns, who holds Hagel's old Nebraska Senate seat - have said they will vote for him.
A few other Republicans have said they would not support the use of any procedural mechanism that would force the Democrats to round up 60 votes to confirm Hagel.