(WASHINGTON) -- The Senate has voted to proceed with a vote to confirm or reject Republican Chuck Hagel as Secretary of Defense.
After a battle lasting nearly two months, characterized by tough interrogation and a partisan divide, lawmakers are expected to confirm President Obama's nomination of Hagel on Tuesday afternoon.
Before the vote on whether to move forward with the decision, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid warned Republicans against continuing their partisan fight against the nominee.
The measure to move forward passed by a vote of 71-27. It needed at least 60 votes to pass.
Republicans blocked a cloture vote to confirm Hagel on Valentine's Day, pushing the decision back until after their President's Day recess. Democrats framed that rejection as a filibuster, while Republicans said they needed another week to discuss the candidate's record.
A group of 15 Republicans sent a letter to Obama last week asking him to withdraw Hagel's nomination.
Hagel is a former GOP senator from Nebraska and Purple-Heart-decorated Vietnam veteran. If confirmed, he would be the first former enlisted member of the Armed Forces to serve as secretary of defense, but he has been an unpopular pick from the start, with groups claiming he was anti-Israel and anti-gay rights.
If confirmed, Hagel would take the place of departing Defense Secretary Leon Panetta.
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