WASHINGTON — The Senate cleared the way Tuesday for confirmation of Chuck Hagel to be the nation’s next defense secretary after Republicans dropped their unprecedented delay of President Barack Obama’s choice to head the Pentagon.
On a vote of 71-27, the Senate ended a Republican filibuster, setting the stage for the widely expected confirmation of the former two-term Republican senator from Nebraska later in the day. Eighteen Republicans joined 51 Democrats and two independents to move forward with the contentious nomination.
If confirmed, Hagel would succeed Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and join Obama’s retooled national security team of Secretary of State John Kerry and CIA Director-designate John Brennan.
Hagel’s nomination bitterly split the Senate, with Republicans turning on their former GOP colleague and Democrats standing by Obama’s nominee.
Among the LGBT community, concerns persisted over Hagel’s nomination, due largely to anti-gay remarks he made in 1998 against then-ambassadorial nominee James Hormel — comments for which he has apologized — and a dismal anti-gay voting in record in Congress.
Some LGBT advocates have been pushing Hagel to state a greater commitment to LGBT service members during his confirmation process.
During his confirmation hearing, Hagel pledged to “move forward expeditiously” on the issue of extending partner benefits to gay service members, and said that if confirmed for the role as Defense Secretary he would do “everything possible” to extend equal benefits to all military families.