WASHINGTON (AP) — Bruised and battered, Chuck Hagel emerged from his grueling confirmation hearing with solid Democratic support for his nomination to be President Barack Obama’s next defense secretary and relentless opposition from Republicans who repeatedly challenged their former GOP colleague.
Mathematically, Hagel has the edge as he looks to succeed Defense Secretary Leon Panetta as the nation’s 24th Pentagon chief. Democrats hold a 14-12 advantage on the Senate Armed Services Committee, and Chairman Carl Levin, D-Mich., said the panel could vote as early as next Thursday, contingent on Hagel’s prompt response on some lingering questions.
Levin expressed optimism about Hagel’s prospects and praised his performance in nearly eight hours of testimony Thursday.
“I think his answers were honest and forthright and he did very well,” Levin told reporters. “I hope that there will be some, who maybe were skeptical but who are undecided before this hearing, will maybe now look at him in a more favorable light. But I think there are a whole lot of folks who basically decided before the hearing that they were going to vote against him.”
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