Hagel Has Enough Support to Be Defense Secretary

Washington (AP) -

Chuck Hagel has lined up the necessary votes for the Senate to confirm him next week to be the nation’s next defense secretary, after a senior Republican lawmaker said he will back President Barack Obama’s choice.

Barring any new developments, five-term Sen. Richard Shelby of Alabama said he would vote for his fellow Republican and the former two-term Nebraska senator, with the expectation that Hagel will win Senate approval. If confirmed, Hagel would succeed Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, who is stepping down after four years first as CIA director and then as Pentagon chief.

“He’s probably as good as we’re going to get,” Shelby told the Decatur Daily about Hagel.

Jonathan Graffeo, a spokesman for the senator, said Thursday that unless any new information damaging to the nominee emerges between now and an expected Senate vote on Tuesday, Hagel has Shelby’s vote.

The Senate also is holding up the nomination of John Brennan to be CIA director, with Republicans and Democrats seeking more information about the U.S. policy on the use of drones. Hagel and Brennan would join Secretary of State John Kerry in Obama’s overhauled national security team.

Hagel is expected to get all 55 Democratic votes and the support of three Republicans — Sens. Thad Cochran of Mississippi, Mike Johanns of Nebraska and Shelby. Two other Republicans, Sens. Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, voted last week to allow the nomination to move ahead and are expected to do the same next week, giving Hagel the requisite 60 votes out of 100 necessary to end a filibuster.

A vote on confirmation, with only a majority necessary, could occur as early as Wednesday.