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“Nothing has changed,” said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat. “Twelve days later, Sen. Hagel’s exemplary record of service to his country remains untarnished.”

More than enough Republicans opposed the nomination to have continued the filibuster to block him, but in the end they did not have the stomach for it. Fifteen Republicans voted to end the filibuster but voted against confirming Mr. Hagel.

One Republican, Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, voted to filibuster Mr. Hagel but then voted in favor of confirming him.

Mr. Paul’s spokeswoman, Moira Bagley, said the senator voted to filibuster because some of his colleagues had unanswered questions. But Mr. Paul also believes presidents are entitled to leeway on their appointments.

“That is why Sen. Paul voted in favor of Sen. John Kerry, with whom he largely disagrees on foreign policy, to serve as secretary of state, and that is why he voted for final passage of the nomination of Sen. Hagel this evening, with whom he also disagrees on a number of issues,” Ms. Bagley said.

Republican opponents criticized Mr. Hagel for statements and moves he made during and after his time as senator, including comments that the “Jewish lobby” intimidates lawmakers, and votes and statements opposing stiffer sanctions on Iran.

“I’m disappointed not one Democrat stepped forward to express concerns about Sen. Hagel’s views on Israel and Iran,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican who vehemently fought the nomination — though he voted against filibustering. “I believe from his past actions, he has shown antagonism toward the state of Israel. In these dangerous times, his nomination sends the worst possible signal to our enemies in Iran.”

Mr. Hagel apologized for the “Jewish lobby” comment and explained his Iran stance, saying he didn’t think Congress should try to dictate foreign policy to the administration.

Defense secretaries usually are confirmed overwhelmingly, though there have been notable exceptions. Former Republican Sen. John Tower’s nomination in 1989 was defeated by his former colleagues by a vote of 53-47, in a rejection that still stings some Republicans.

But the Hagel blockade was the first filibuster of a defense nominee, and it left Republicans arguing that they weren’t filibustering for the purpose of blocking the nomination, but rather to force the administration to turn over more information.

“This happens all the time,” said Sen. James M. Inhofe of Oklahoma, the ranking Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee.