U.S. Senate panel approves Chuck Hagel for Pentagon chief

U.S. Senate panel approves Chuck Hagel for Pentagon chief

WASHINGTON — A bitterly divided Senate panel on Tuesday approved President Barack Obama’s nomination of Chuck Hagel to be the nation’s defense secretary in a rancorous session at which Republican questioned the former GOP senator’s truthfulness and challenged his patriotism.

On a party-line vote of 14-11, the Armed Services Committee voted to send the nomination to the full Senate, where Republicans have threatened to delay a vote on the president’s choice to succeed Defense Secretary Leon Panetta.

Democrats have the votes to confirm Hagel, a twice-wounded Vietnam combat veteran and former two-term Nebraska senator, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), said he would press ahead with a vote on the most divisive nominee of Obama’s second-term national security team.

Committee Chairman Carl Levin (D-Mich.), said after the hearing that he was hopeful the Senate could confirm Hagel by week’s end.

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