Chuck Hagel has been confirmed as the new Secretary of Defense by a vote of 58-41. Four Republicans joined the Democrats to back President Obama’s nominee.
The vote to confirm Hagel came at the end of a contentious battle over the president’s choice for his second-term Pentagon head.
The former two-term Nebraska senator was opposed by his fellow Republicans, who painted him as out of the mainstream, reports The Associated Press.
They also asserted that he has been overly critical of Israel. Republicans dropped their filibuster of Hagel’s nomination earlier on Tuesday. The Senate vote to end the delay was 71-27.
Republicans initially delayed the confirmation before they went on a nine day recess. During that time, Hagel’s two main opponents, Senators Lindsey Graham and John McCain, stated that they would no longer hold up Hagel’s confirmation.
The confirmation vote on Tuesday means that the former Republican senator will take the reigns of the Pentagon as across-the-board spending cuts go into effect, according to Bloomberg.
The cuts, called the sequester, will take $46 million away from military budgets in the next seven months. They will take a total of $500 billion away in the next 10 years. The only way to avoid the cuts will be if President Obama and Congress can come to an agreement.
Despite his criticism of Hagel, Senator McCain voted on Tuesday to cut off the debate about the former senator, though he stated he would vote against confirming his former friend. Hagel’s confirmation means that the Defense Department will be led by a decorated Vietnam War veteran for the first time.
He is also the first to remain an enlisted man throughout his career in the military. Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin, a Democrat from Michigan, stated that Hagel’s background provides “invaluable experience.”
Tuesday’s vote saw 18 Republicans vote with Democrats to end debate, while only four Republicans voted to confirm their former colleague. Hagel’s confirmation is the first time a defense secretary nominee has been confirmed with more than 11 votes in opposition.