Obama's defense pick Hagel passes crucial Senate test

Updated: 2013-02-27 03:27

By Xinhua

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WASHINGTON - Chuck Hagel, US President Barack Obama's nominee to be next Defense Secretary, on Tuesday passed a crucial cloture vote in the Senate, heading towards a likely confirmation.

The vote was 71-27, with 18 Republicans breaking rank to stop their party's filibuster attempt on the national security nomination.

In the first cloture vote two weeks ago, only four Republican sided with the Democrats.

The final vote to confirm Hagel to the helm of Pentagon could come later Tuesday. He only needs more than 50 votes to get confirmed.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has set up a 4:30 confirmation vote for Tuesday. There were no Republican objections.

Hagel, a 66-year-old Vietnam War veteran, will succeed current Pentagon chief Leon Panetta, once confirmed. Republicans have resisted his nomination on grounds that his views on Israel, Iran were outside of mainstream.

Hagel is believed to share many of Obama's views on the military and American power, and is viewed more inclined to support Obama's push to withdraw US forces faster from Afghanistan.

However, if confirmed, he will be taking over the Pentagon at a time of budget cuts and looming sequestration, on top of a strained relationship with Congress stemming from animosity created during his seven-week nomination saga.