The U.S. Senate on Tuesday confirmed former Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel as the country's new defense secretary.

Hagel, who was nominated by President Barack Obama in early January, was approved by a vote of 58-41 after a difficult confirmation process.

The Nebraskan met stiff opposition during the confirmation hearings from former colleagues in his party who on Feb. 14 prevented his nomination from coming to a final vote as a way to exert pressure on the Obama administration.

The Republicans took advantage of the process to ask the White House for more information about last September's attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, in which Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans were killed.

During the process, the White House reiterated its support for the nominee, who riled some on Capitol Hill by criticizing the Bush administration's "surge" in Iraq and by not being sufficiently devoted to Israel. EFE