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Hagel Nomination Clears Senate Panel: The Senate Armed Services Committee on Tuesday voted 14 to 11 in favor of former Sen. Chuck Hagel becoming the next Defense Secretary, clearing the thus-far controversial nomination to proceed to the Senate floor for consideration, possibly before the end of the week. Hagel would replace Leon Panetta, who is retiring. The SASC's Feb. 12 vote split along party lines, with all 14 committee Democrats supporting the nomination and 11 of the 12 Republican members voting against it. Sen. David Vitter (R-La.), who thinks the nomination is being rushed, did not cast a vote, reported Reuters. GOP senators have been against Hagel, citing his past statements on aggressive nuclear disarmament as well as criticism of Israel and a perceived lax attitude towards Iran's nuclear aspirations. However, the GOP committee members did not follow through on a threat to walk out on the vote. Hagel's confirmation may still face hurdles as some Republican senators like Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.), SASC ranking member, have hinted at a filibuster to delay a final floor vote.