Panetta tuning in to C-SPAN to await Hagel vote

February 25, 2013 - 4:30 PM

WASHINGTON (AP) — Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has apparently had all the Pentagon farewells he can take.

The defense chief is working from his California home, awaiting the expected Senate vote on the nomination of former Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel to take over the Pentagon job.

The Senate will vote on Tuesday on whether to move ahead on the nomination, according to a senior Senate Democratic leadership aide who spoke on condition of anonymity because discussions were private. If Hagel hits the threshold vote as expected, the question is whether Republicans will allow an immediate vote on confirmation or demand that the Senate use the maximum 30 hours of debate before an up-or-down vote.

Pentagon spokesman George Little says Panetta will be tuning in to the C-SPAN Senate channel in the next few days, hoping that Hagel is confirmed. Panetta has been eager to retire to his walnut farm in Carmel for weeks, and already was feted at two farewell ceremonies. But his plans have been repeatedly blocked by delays as senators battle over Hagel's nomination.

The Senate dispute meant Panetta had to attend a NATO meeting in Brussels last week that he expected Hagel would attend.

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Associated Press writer Donna Cassata contributed to this report.