Senate committee advances Hagel nomination

WASHINGTON (JTA) — Sticking strictly to party lines, the Senate Armed Services Committee referred the nomination of Chuck Hagel for defense secretary to the full Senate for confirmation. 

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The tally favoring Hagel, a former U.S. senator from Nebraska, was 14 in favor, all in the Democratic caucus, and 11 opposed, all Republicans.

One Republican, David Vitter of Louisiana, was not present.

Much of the debate Tuesday afternoon focused on Hagel’s past statements expressing skepticism of Iran sanctions, his past wariness of a strike on Iran to keep it from obtaining a nuclear weapon and his past criticism of Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians.

Committee chairman Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.) devoted much of his opening remarks to addressing these issues.

“Much of the time and attention at our committee hearing was devoted to a handful of statements that Senator Hagel made over the course of his career that raised legitimate questions about his views on Israel, Iran, and other issues,” Levin said. “Senator Hagel explained or clarified these statements and placed them in context. He apologized for one remark and told the committee that he would say other things differently if he had the chance or were making them over.”

President Obama nominated Hagel, a Vietnam War hero, to succeed Leon Panetta.

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