WASHINGTON- President Barack Obama stands behind his nominee for defense secretary, former Republican Senator Chuck Hagel, and Senate delays in Hagel's confirmation are "unconscionable," a White House spokesman said on Thursday.

Delays in Hagel's nomination do not send a good signal to US allies or troops, White House spokesman Josh Earnest said.

"The president stands strongly behind Senator Hagel," Earnest said. "It does not send a favorable signal for Republicans in the United States Senate to delay a vote on the president's nominee, a nominee who is a member of their own party, to be the Secretary of Defense."

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