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Praise, levity greet Hagel in Senate return

Wednesday - 4/17/2013, 3:20pm  ET

Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Senators who nearly buried Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel have now found reasons to praise him.

Hagel fielded questions on the defense budget, Afghanistan, Syria and North Korea on Wednesday. It was his first appearance before the Senate Armed Services Committee since the panel just narrowly approved his nomination in February on a bitter, party-line vote.

Among the questioners were Republicans who nearly three months ago insisted that the former GOP senator was ill-prepared for the top Pentagon job. Some had even insinuated that the decorated Vietnam War veteran was cozy with enemies such as Iran.

What a difference a job and several high-profile decisions makes.

Lawmakers praised Hagel and the administration for its actions on North Korea and his decisions on the issue of sexual assault in the military.

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