Senate committee endorses defence chief nominee Hagel
The US Senate Armed Services Committee voted Tuesday to support former senator Chuck Hagel's nomination to become defence secretary, dpa reports.
The committee's recommendation for Hagel's confirmation will be sent to the 100-member full Senate, where a majority is needed to approve his nomination by President Barack Obama to lead the Pentagon.
Hagel, 66, a Vietnam combat veteran who served 12 years in the Senate from Nebraska, is a Republican who has often dissented from his conservative party on defence and foreign policy. Obama, a member of the left-leaning Democratic Party, served with Hagel in the Senate.
The Democrats hold a majority in the upper chamber, and Hagel's confirmation is expected to pass.
Republicans on the Armed Services Committee all voted against Hagel, citing objections to his current or past positions on issues including support for Israel and the Iranian nuclear programme.
Republicans led by Senator John McCain grilled Hagel during a January 31 confirmation hearing.
If confirmed by the Senate, the decorated, twice-wounded Vietnam War veteran will be the first defence secretary to have previously served as an enlisted soldier, rather than an officer. Hagel would succeed Leon Panetta, who wants to step aside.