-ANI): The U.S. Senate on Tuesday voted 58-41 to confirm Chuck Hagel as the next Secretary of Defense. Hagel will be sworn in on Wednesday.
The vote was basically along party lines, with four Republicans breaking rank to join the Democratic majority. Hagel needed a simple majority of over 50 votes to be confirmed.
The confirmation came as expected after GOP resistance was broken in a cloture vote to end debate earlier in the afternoon.
Hagel, a 66-year-old Vietnam War veteran, will succeed current Pentagon chief Leon Panetta, who made no secret his desire to retire.
Republicans had resisted Hagel's nomination on the grounds that his views on Israel and Iran were outside of mainstream.
Hagel is believed to share many of President Barack Obama's views on the military and American power, and is viewed more inclined to support Obama's push to withdraw U.S. forces from Afghanistan at a faster pace. But 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.
But the White House and Panetta both expressed confidence in Hagel. In a statement, Obama said that he will be counting on Hagel's judgment and counsel "as we end the war in Afghanistan, bring our troops home, stay ready to meet the threats of our time and keep our military the finest fighting force in the world."
In a farewell message, Panetta also praised Hagel as "an outstanding leader." (Xinhua-ANI)