The Senate has voted to confirm Chuck Hagel to be the nation's next defense secretary.
The vote Tuesday was 58-41, with four Republicans joining Democrats in backing President Barack Obama's nominee.
The vote ended a contentious fight over the president's choice for his second-term national security team.
Republicans opposed the former two-term Republican senator from Nebraska, casting him as out of the mainstream and overly critical of Israel. But Democrats stood together for Hagel, a twice-wounded Vietnam combat veteran.
Hagel will succeed Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, who is stepping down after four years as CIA director and Pentagon chief.
The vote came just hours after Republicans dropped their delay and allowed the nomination to move forward. The Senate vote to end the filibuster was 71-27.
Republicans had opposed Hagel, a former Republican senator from Nebraska and Vietnam combat veteran. They cast him as out of the mainstream, questioned his support for Israel and suggested he was too willing to compromise with Iran. (AP)
Nevada Senator Harry Reid delivered these remarks earlier today on the U.S. Senate floor:
Today the Senate will vote for a second time to move forward with the nomination of Senator Chuck Hagel – a Republican – to serve as Secretary of Defense. Twelve days ago, Republicans mounted a first-of-its-kind filibuster of Senator Hagel's confirmation. Senator Hagel is the first nominee for Secretary of Defense to be filibustered in the history of the United States.
And what has their filibuster gained my Republican colleagues? Twelve days later, nothing has changed. Twelve days later, Senator Hagel's exemplary record of service to his country remains untarnished. Twelve days later, President Obama's support for this qualified nominee is still strong. Twelve days later, the majority of Senators still support his confirmation.
Senate Republicans have delayed for the better part of two weeks for one reason and one reason only: partisanship. At a time when our nation faces threats abroad, the President's nominee for Secretary of Defense deserves a fair and constructive confirmation process.
Politically-motivated delays send a terrible signal to our allies and to the world. And they send a terrible signal to tens of thousands of Americans serving in Afghanistan. For the sake of national security, it's time to set aside this partisanship.
In three days, across-the-board cuts to defense spending are scheduled to take effect. The Pentagon needs a seasoned leader to implement those cuts.
Democrats are working hard to avert the worst of these arbitrary cuts – cuts for which an overwhelming majority of Republicans in Congress voted.
We have a balanced proposal to replace those across-the-board cuts for this year with smart spending reductions, measures that close corporate tax loopholes and end wasteful subsidies and revenue from the very wealthiest among us – Americans making millions of dollars each year.
It is critical that Republicans and Democrats come together to find a balanced way to avert these drastic cuts. The consequences of the so-called sequester are real – not only for our national defense, but for millions of American families and businesses. More than 750,000 American jobs are at stake.
Across the country, tens of thousands of teachers, including thousands who work with disabled children, could be laid off. Seventy thousand children would be dropped from Head Start. And 373,000 adults living with serious mental illnesses and children dealing with severe emotional problems will go untreated.
Airports will close, due to a shortage of air traffic controllers. And lines at the airports that do stay open will stretch out the door, as TSA workers are furloughed. At the airport in Las Vegas, through which 40 million tourists from around the world travel each year, security lines will take an hour longer than they do today.
And from coast to coast, hundreds of thousands of civilian employees of the Department of Defense will face furloughs that will devastate their families and devastate our economy.
These effects won't be felt all at once. They will be cumulative, and they will be painful.
Democrats want to work with Republicans to find a balanced, responsible way to reduce the deficit. Unfortunately, Republicans are standing in the way of a solution. They would sacrifice 750,000 American jobs rather than ask multi-millionaires to pay a penny more.
But three-quarters of Americans – including 56 percent of Republicans – are crying out for a balanced approach. With only three days left to protect American families and our economic recovery from this latest crisis, it's time for Republicans to work toward a solution instead of being part of the problem.
Today, U.S. Senator Dean Heller (R-NV) issued the following statement regarding the nomination of former Senator Chuck Hagel to be Secretary of Defense. Senator Heller met with Hagel on January 22,2013, and discussed concerns regarding his nomination.
"Even after sitting down with Senator Hagel in recent weeks, I still have concerns about his nomination to be Secretary of Defense. While I have great respect for Senator Hagel's brave service in the Armed Forces, his statements and record on Middle East policy are particularly troubling. It is in the United States' best interest to stand firm as a friend to Israel and never waver in our opposition to the dangerous behavior of the current Iranian regime. Any nominee as Secretary of Defense must send a clear message to both Israel and Iran that these policies will continue, and unfortunately, Senator Hagel does not fit this criterion," said Senator Dean Heller.
Farewell Message to the Department of Defense from Secretary Leon E. Panetta
To All Department of Defense Personnel:
"Tomorrow morning, Chuck Hagel will be sworn in to succeed me as secretary of defense. It's been the privilege of my life to serve with and lead the men and women of this department, and I am grateful that President Obama selected such an outstanding leader to take my place.
"As my final act in this position, I want to express my deepest gratitude to each and every one of you who are fighting and working every day to keep this country safe. I also want to share with you my pride in what we've been able to accomplish together as one team and one family at the Department of Defense.
"First and foremost, I'm proud that because of all of your hard work, your sacrifice, and your dedication, we've kept this country safe. I'm proud of the courage and commitment you've displayed in combat, and for your determination to defeat our enemies, prevail over significant challenges in two wars, and give the people of Iraq and Afghanistan a chance at a much brighter future.
"I'm proud of the gains we've made in weakening al Qaeda and other terrorist groups. At all levels in this department, you've shown the ability to work together closer than ever before with our partners in government and abroad. Your skill and teamwork are undermining and frustrating our enemies' designs to attack this country.
"I'm proud of the defense strategy that we've developed and started to implement, which sustains the world's strongest military and helps meet the department's obligations to fiscal discipline. Together we're keeping our military agile, flexible, and ready; we're rebalancing our force posture; we're building new partnerships and investing in new technologies.
"I'm proud of expanding opportunities for everyone in the military, because I believe everyone deserves a chance to serve. And I'm proud of what we've done to help and care for returning service members, veterans, and their families, who've sacrificed so much especially over this past decade of war.
"Most of all, I'll always remain proud and honored to have led brave warriors who are risking their lives on behalf of the American people. Everything our military has been able to accomplish is because of dedicated people like you – it is because of your willingness to deal with extended absences from loved ones and deploy in harm's way.
"I'll never forget, honoring our fallen to whom our nations rendered final honors, and I'll keep their families in my prayers. In my time as secretary of defense, I've seen the profound difference that each of you has made in the life of this nation and our world. You have responded to the call of the bugle with courage and with selfless dedication to country.
"My prayer as I leave is that we all share the same courage and dedication to protecting the United States of America, the home of the free and the land of the brave.
"God bless America, God bless you, and God bless the men and women of the Department of Defense."
Saturday, May 25 2013 2:16 AM EDT2013-05-25 06:16:04 GMT
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