It took a few weeks longer than expected, but the Senate today approved Chuck Hagel to be the next defense secretary. The final vote—58-41, with four Republicans voting in favor—came after the GOP dropped its unprecedented delay of President Obama's choice to head the Pentagon. The former GOP senator from Nebraska succeeds Leon Panetta and joins Obama's new national security team of Secretary of State John Kerry and CIA Director-designate John Brennan.
Hagel's nomination had bitterly split the Senate. Republicans had argued that while Hagel served with distinction in Vietnam, they called him too critical of Israel and too compromising with Iran. Last week, 15 Republican senators sent a letter to Obama asking him to withdraw the nomination. Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin, a Democrat, dismissed the "unfair innuendoes" and called Hagel an "outstanding American patriot."