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Chuck Hagel will be secretary of Defense. What did GOP opposition accomplish?

The Senate approves former Sen. Chuck Hagel as Defense secretary after weeks of Republican opposition. Hagel emerges politically weaker as he prepares to fight pending budget cuts.

By Staff Writer / February 26, 2013

Secretary of Defense nominee Chuck Hagel testifies before the Senate Armed Services Committee last month. A deeply divided Senate is moving toward a vote on President Obama’s contentious choice.

J. Scott Applewhite/AP/File

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Washington

The embattled Chuck Hagel will be America’s next secretary of Defense, after all.

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Washington Editor

Peter Grier is The Christian Science Monitor's Washington editor. In this capacity, he helps direct coverage for the paper on most news events in the nation's capital.

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Following weeks of bitter partisan fighting over Mr. Hagel’s nomination for the Pentagon post, he won Senate confirmation with surprising ease, passing a key Tuesday cloture vote by 71 to 27. Among those voting “yea” were Republican Sens. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and John McCain of Arizona – two lawmakers who’d battered Hagel, a former GOP senator from Nebraska, over his past statements on Israel, Iran, Libya, and various other national security issues.

The final vote on Hagel's confirmation came Tuesday evening, with the Senate voting 58 to 41. Four Republicans backed Hagel, but Graham and McCain voted "no."

So what did the GOP opposition to Hagel produce? If nothing else, it’s likely to prevent the administration from pointing to Hagel as evidence that President Obama’s Cabinet is bipartisan. It’s possible that was one reason Obama chose Hagel in the first place, but the fierce GOP opposition to his nomination made clear that his former colleagues consider him a turncoat due to his criticism of the Bush-era troop surge in Iraq, and other issues. Democrat John Kerry’s path to confirmation as secretary of State was all flowers and lollipops by comparison.

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