The Armed Services Committee voted 14-11 to send the nomination to the full Senate. Tuesday’s vote broke along party lines with all 14 Democrats backing President Barack Obama’s choice.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is pushing for a full Senate vote by week’s end, but some Republicans are threatening to filibuster the nomination.
Hagel, a former two-term Republican senator and Vietnam combat veteran, faces strong opposition from GOP senators. They have questioned whether he is sufficiently supportive of Israel and too tolerant of Iran.
Democrats have the votes to confirm Hagel on a majority vote. He would succeed Defense Secretary Leon Panetta.