Tuesday February 12, 2013 | 06:14 PM

WASHINGTON – Sen. Angus King, I-Maine, joined with Democratic committee members on Tuesday to endorse former Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel as the next defense secretary.

The vote to approve Hagel fell along party lines, with the 11 Republicans on the Senate Armed Services Committee opposing the nominee and the 13 Democratic members – plus King, who caucuses with the Democrats – supporting the former Nebraska senator.

Republicans, including New Hampshire Sen. Kelly Ayotte, had voiced concerns about Hagel’s past positions on the threat posed by Iran, nuclear weapons disarmament, Israeli security and other issues. Ayotte’s Democratic colleague from New Hampshire, Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, supported Hagel.

During the committee meeting, King praised Hagel’s perspective gained as an enlisted soldier during the Vietnam War, his policy experience in the Senate, management experience and his willingness to speak honestly with the president on defense matters.

“The deference goes to the president to build his team,” King said prior to the committee vote. “But I happen to think Chuck Hagel is a man of great integrity and great intelligence.”

The attention now turns to the full Senate, where Maine Republican Sen. Susan Collins’ vote will likely be closely watched.

Democrats hold 55 seats – again, including King – which is enough to confirm him on a majority vote. But Democrats will need to pick up five Republicans to proceed to a vote.

Collins has yet to state publicly whether she will support Hagel but has indicated she would not support filibustering the nominee.

“I think there has to be an awfully high threshold to filibuster a Cabinet nominee and I doubt that that threshold has been met in this case,” Collins recently told Roll Call. “To me, to support a filibuster, the person would have to have done something egregious.”


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Kevin Miller is Washington bureau chief for the Portland Press Herald and MaineToday Media. He has worked as a journalist in Maine for 6 ½ years, covering the environment, politics and the State House. Before arriving in Maine, he wrote about politics, government and education for newspapers in Virginia and Maryland.
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