WASHINGTON — Chuck Hagel — Republican, twice-wounded Vietnam combat veteran and former Nebraska senator — faces his first major hurdle in his bid to become the nation’s defense secretary as a bitterly divided Senate Armed Services Committee pushes toward a vote on his nomination.
The panel is scheduled to meet Tuesday afternoon to discuss and vote on President Barack Obama’s choice to succeed Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, who is stepping down after four years as CIA director and Pentagon chief. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., is pressing for a full Senate vote on either Wednesday or Thursday.
Hagel faces fierce opposition from Republicans who have challenged his past statements and votes on Israel, Iran, Iraq and nuclear weapons. Committee Republicans forced a delay in the expected committee vote last week when they pressed Hagel for more information about his personal finances.
The panel’s chairman, Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., said the GOP demands were beyond the scope of those traditionally asked of previous nominees, Republican and Democrat.
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