Senate panel approves Hagel - News, Weather and Sports for Lincoln, NE; KLKNTV.com

Senate panel approves Hagel

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WASHINGTON (AP) — A bitterly divided Senate panel on Tuesday voted to approve President Barack Obama's nomination of Chuck Hagel to be the nation's defense secretary at a time of turmoil for the military with looming budget cuts, a fresh sign of North Korea's nuclear ambitions and drawdown of U.S. forces in Afghanistan.

The Armed Services Committee voted 14-11 to send the nomination to the full Senate, with all the panel's Democrats backing the president's choice to succeed Defense Secretary Leon Panetta. The committee's Republicans were unified in their opposition to their onetime colleague, a former two-term Republican senator from Nebraska and twice-wounded Vietnam combat veteran.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said he would move ahead with a full Senate vote despite Republican complaints that he was "jamming it through." A vote is expected on Thursday, and barring any surprises, the Senate is likely to confirm Hagel for the president's second-term national security team.

Hagel, 66, would take charge of a military facing deep cuts in projected spending; challenges from North Korea, Iran and Syria; and the reduction of U.S. combat forces in Afghanistan.

Democrats, who hold a 55-45 edge in the Senate, have the numbers to confirm Hagel on a majority vote, but would need the support of five Republicans before an up-or-down vote on the president's Cabinet choice would be allowed.

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