Former Nebraska Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel is emerging as the most likely contender to replace Leon Panetta as Secretary of Defense, Bloomberg reports.
Two sources familiar with the process tell Bloomberg the Vietnam veteran who served on the senate committees for foreign relations and intelligence, among others, has passed the White House vetting process.
Hagel's ascension to the cabinet is an attractive prospect for Barack Obama—currently mired in political budget battles—as a demonstration of bipartisanship.
Many Republicans criticized Hagel before he left the Senate in 2009 for condemning the George W. Bush administration and its policies regarding the Iraq War.
Despite his history, the Republican could expect a smoother confirmation process through Congress than other picks, such as current Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice, who removed her name from the nomination process for Secretary of State on Thursday. Rice said her nomination process would be too costly facing opposition from Republican leaders, such as Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain.
Others considered to succeed Panetta include Michele Flournoy, a former Undersecretary of Defense for Policy, or Ashton B. Carter, the current Pentagon number two. Potential picks from Congress also include former Georgia Democratic Sen. Sam Nunn, Connecticut Independent Sen. Joe Lieberman, and Massachusetts Democratic Sen. John Kerry.
Hagel visited the White House earlier in December, Bloomberg reports, so Obama could discuss the position with him.