UPDATE: Hagel has indeed been confirmed as Secretary of Defense on a 58-41 vote.
BREAKING: The Senate voted 71-27 to allow Chuck Hagel, Obama's embattled nominee for Defense Secretary, to go to an up or down vote (at which he'll need only 51 votes). The vote will happen at 4:30 EST today, and the U.S. will end its brief and strange time without a Defense Secretary.
Hagel just narrowly missed making it to a vote last week, when Republican objections that ranged from the bizarre (that Hagel had to first respond to an unfavorable blog post from six years ago), to the unrelated to Hagel (that Obama first needed to release more documents on Benghazi, to the McCarthyist (that Hagel first had to prove that he had no connection to the made-up organization Friends of Hamas).
While John McCain and Lindsey Graham did extract some Benghazi documents from Obama in their neverending quest to make a big deal out of that, it's not clear if Republicans gained anything really substantial from delaying Hagel, and may have just strengthened their generally deserved reputation as obstructing for obstruction's sake.
Once the vote was tallied, Harry Reid requested that Hagel move to his confirmation vote that afternoon without debate. No one objected, meaning that the last chance for Republicans to slow Hagel's confirmation had passed. Reid shrugged, having made it to the end of a strange, somewhat unnecessary journey, and stepped down from the podium.