Former Nebraska Republican Senator Chuck Hagel testifies on Capitol Hill
The US Senate has cleared the way for the confirmation of former Senator Chuck Hagel as defence secretary.
In a critical test vote, the chamber agreed to hold a final vote on Hagel's bid later on Tuesday, when he is expected to win confirmation easily.
The Senate move comes 12 days after Republicans delayed a vote, questioning his past positions on Israel and Iran and his qualifications, reports the BBC.
But critics dropped their delaying manoeuvre after a week-long recess.
Just after noon on Tuesday in Washington DC, the US Senate held a procedural vote to end debate on the confirmation of Hagel, a former Republican senator from Nebraska nominated by President Barack Obama to lead the Pentagon.
Among other sticking points in Hagel's nomination process was a remark he made in a 2008 book that the "Jewish lobby" intimidated decision-makers on Capitol Hill.
Republican senators also said they feared Hagel would be too lax on Iran, and Ted Cruz, an outspoken conservative freshman senator from Texas, suggested without evidence that Hagel had accepted payments from North Korea.
During a confirmation hearing this year, Hagel sought to reassure the Senate armed services committee that he was "fully committed" to preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon and apologised for the "Jewish lobby" comment, saying he could not be defined by any single quote.
Hagel's Democratic Party supporters produced other remarks and evidence they said showed he would stick to existing US policy on Israel and Iran.
The White House warned of great risks in leaving the Pentagon without a leader at a time of budget challenges and while the US has troops in Afghanistan.