Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Senate Relents, Confirms Hagel New Defense Chief Overcame Opposition from His Own Party

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Senate Relents, Confirms Hagel New Defense Chief Overcame Opposition from His Own Party

Article excerpt

WASHINGTON -- The Senate confirmed Chuck Hagel as secretary of defense Tuesday after a bruising bout with Republicans, while President Barack Obama's choice to be Treasury secretary headed to the floor with bipartisan support, suggesting that the Republican blockade against the administration's second-term nominees was beginning to ease.

After escaping a filibuster from members of his own party, Mr. Hagel, a former Nebraska Republican senator, prevailed in a 58-41 vote -- the narrowest margin for any defense secretary on record.

Hours earlier, the Senate Finance Committee approved the nomination of Jacob J. Lew as Treasury secretary on a 19-5 vote. With those nominations advancing, attention turned to the Senate Intelligence Committee vote in the days ahead on the president's nominee to be CIA director, John O. Brennan.

The chances for Mr. Brennan remained good, though his confirmation is not expected to be entirely smooth, as both Republicans and Democrats have raised objections over the agency's use of drones to kill U.S. citizens suspected of terrorism.

Sens. John McCain of Arizona and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, both Republicans, also have threatened to hold up Mr. Brennan's nomination over questions about the attack last year on the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya. Both men made similar demands of Mr. Hagel, who, unlike Mr. Brennan, has had no role in formulating the Obama administration's national security policies.

Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., has asked Mr. Brennan, who has been Mr. Obama's chief counterterrorism adviser, to answer questions about government use of drones. And Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., said Tuesday that he thought the confirmation process should play out and indicated he was willing to help delay it until Mr. Brennan addresses the drone issue.

Senate Republicans, joined by an array of conservative activists, have waged an all-out campaign to discredit Mr. Hagel that included digging into his financial records for evidence that he was paid by anti-American groups and scouring his old speeches for signs that he was hostile to Israel. Those efforts produced little, forcing most Republicans to acquiesce. …

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