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February 26, 2013

Obama celebrates Hagel confirmation after Republican slowdown

President Obama hailed the confirmation of his pick for Defense Secretary Tuesday, saying with Chuck Hagel "we will have the defense secretary our nation needs and the leader our troops deserve."

Obama's statement noted that the vote was bipartisan -- the final tally was 58 to 41. But it came only after a weeks-long protracted fight in the Senate with Hagel's former Republican colleagues accusing him of being insufficiently supportive of Israel.

Obama stuck with Hagel amid calls for him to withdraw the nomination and said Tuesday that "from the moment he volunteered for military service in Vietnam, Chuck has devoted his life to keeping America secure and our armed forces strong."

Hagel spoke out in opposition to war in Iraq, and Obama said he'd count on Hagel's "judgment and counsel" as the U.S. ends its involvement in Afghanistan and brings troops back.

"Most of all, I am grateful to Chuck for reminding us that when it comes to our national defense, we are not Democrats or Republicans, we are Americans, and our greatest responsibility is the security of the American people," Obama said.

Vice President Joe Biden weighed in as well, saying he'd "travelled across the world with Chuck Hagel" and seen him serve in the Senate.

"Most importantly, I know the President will be able to rely on Chuck's sound, unvarnished judgment on any issue where our troops are involved," Biden said.

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