WASHINGTON (Reuters) - White House spokesman Jay Carney said on Friday he believes former Republican Senator Chuck Hagel, who had a rocky confirmation hearing on Thursday, will be confirmed by the Senate as U.S. defense secretary.

Carney told reporters he believed the number of votes in favor of Hagel's confirmation had increased a day after Hagel came under withering fire from Republican senators for his prior comments on Iraq and Iran.

"We expect the Senate to confirm Senator Hagel to the position of secretary of defense," said Carney. He denounced the "stridency" of the Republican attack on Hagel led by Senator John McCain.

(Reporting by Steve Holland; Editing by Vicki Allen)