In a Senate vote of 58 to 41, Georgetown professor and former Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.) was confirmed as the nation’s 24th secretary of defense Tuesday.

The confirmation marks a victory for President Barack Obama after an intensely partisan battle that featured an unprecedented Senate Republican filibuster Feb. 14.

In a wide margin that surpassed the 60 votes needed to break the filibuster, 18 Republicans joined 53 Democrats to end the Senate debate Tuesday.

However, Hagel’s appointment, which was held later that day, passed by a much narrower proportion of the vote — the narrowest result for a defense appointment in over four decades.

Four Republicans — Thad  Cochran (R-Miss.), Mike Johanns (R-Neb.), Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Ark.) — joined 54 Democrats in confirming Hagel.

President Obama applauded Tuesday’s vote, calling it a “bipartisan” effort.

“We will have the defense secretary our nation needs and the leader our troops deserve,” Obama said in a statement.

The former senator’s road to confirmation was marked by opposition from Republicans, who questioned his malleability with Iranian policy and criticized his approach to U.S. ally Israel. Now as secretary of defense, Hagel faces a variety of issues at home and abroad, including sequestration — a series of budget cuts expected to take place Mar. 1 unless Congress intervenes — and the withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan.

Hagel, the first Vietnam War veteran appointed to the post, is expected to be sworn in at the Pentagon on Wednesday.

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