By SARA MURRAY, POLITICS Updated February 26, 2013, 8:09 p.m. ET
WASHINGTON—Chuck Hagel won Senate approval Tuesday to become defense secretary, gaining control of the Pentagon after a pitched battle and as budget cuts loom.
Mr. Hagel was confirmed in a 58-to-41 vote, the smallest margin for any defense secretary in history. The vote, largely along party lines, ended an unusually contentious fight over a cabinet nominee that some believe could leave the soon-to-be Pentagon chief in a weakened position. He succeeds Leon Panetta in the job.
“I think that he’s got some work to do,” said Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R., N.H.), who voted against confirming Mr. Hagel. “Traditionally it’s been a strong measure to have your secretary of defense have overwhelming bipartisan support and he does not have that.”