Republicans block Hagel vote

(JTA) — Senate Republicans blocked a vote to confirm Chuck Hagel as secretary of defense.

In a party-line vote Thursday, Democrats failed to muster the 60 votes necessary to cut off debate and clear the way for a final vote on Hagel’s nomination. The vote was 58-40.

Hagel, a former Republican senator from Nebraska, has come under sustained assault from congressional Republicans, many of them his former Senate colleagues, since President Obama nominated him to replace Leon Panetta at the Pentagon. Much of the criticism has centered on past comments seen as unfriendly toward Israel and Jewish lobbying efforts in Washington.

Last month during Senate confirmation hearings, Hagel expanded on his apology for using the term “Jewish lobby” and said it also was wrong to suggest pro-Israel groups “intimidate” Congress into doing “dumb things.”

Democrats vowed to press ahead with efforts to confirm Hagel when the Senate returns from recess in 10 days.

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