Senate panel backs Carter for defense secretary, nomination heads toward final vote

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The Senate Armed Services Committee voted unanimously on Tuesday to advance the nomination of Ashton Carter to be the country’s next defense secretary.

Carter, President Obama’s first pick to replace outgoing Secretary Chuck Hagel, must now clear a full Senate vote to win the post.

No vote date has been set, but committee Chairman John McCain, R-Ariz., said after the Carter nomination advanced 25-0 that a final vote could come as early as Wednesday. Congress is out next week for Presidents' Day week.

Carter, a Philadelphia native, served twice previously in Obama's Pentagon, most recently as deputy defense secretary from 2011 to 2013.

He was assistant secretary of defense for international security policy during the administration of President Bill Clinton. He is steeped in the intricacies of missile defense, U.S. nuclear weapons, U.S.-China relations and the evolution of North Korea's nuclear program.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.