UK & World News

  • 27 February 2013, 3:38

Chuck Hagel: Defence Secretary Job Approved

Chuck Hagel has been confirmed by the United States' Senate as President Barack Obama's new secretary of defence, following an unusually acrimonious fight.

The former Republican senator was backed by a margin of 58 to 41 - the closest vote ever to approve a defence secretary.

Only four Republicans - Mike Johanns of Nebraska, who holds Mr Hagel's old Senate seat, Thad Cochran of Mississippi, Richard Shelby of Alabama and Rand Paul of Kentucky - joined the Democrats and independents in support of Mr Hagel's nomination.

Mr Obama said he was pleased there had been bipartisan support for Mr Hagel, a decorated veteran who served during the Vietnam War as an enlisted man before becoming a Republican US senator.

"I am grateful to Chuck for reminding us that when it comes to our national defence, we are not Democrats or Republicans, we are Americans, and our greatest responsibility is the security of the American people," Mr Obama said.

The bruising battle over Mr Hagel was one of many bitter partisan struggles between Democrats and Republicans, amid widespread criticism of Congress for its inability to agree on even the most basic measures to run the country.

The Senate had earlier voted to end debate on Mr Hagel and move forward, almost two weeks after Republicans launched a filibuster to block the nomination.

It was the first ever used to delay consideration of a defence nominee, prompting Democrats to accuse Republicans of jeopardising national security.

Republicans have also challenged Mr Obama's choice to be CIA director, John Brennan, although that nomination appears to be on track, with a vote by the Senate Intelligence Committee expected on Thursday.