John Kerry confirmed as U.S. secretary of state
Kerry will have say on whether the U.S. moves ahead on Keystone XL pipeline from Canada
The Associated Press
Posted: Jan 29, 2013 5:24 PM ET
Last Updated: Jan 29, 2013 8:12 PM ET
The U.S. Senate overwhelmingly confirmed U.S. President Barack Obama's choice of five-term Senator John Kerry to be secretary of state, with Republicans and Democrats praising him as the ideal successor to Hillary Rodham Clinton.
The vote Tuesday was 94-3. One senator — Kerry — voted present and accepted congratulations from colleagues on the Senate floor. The roll call came just hours after the Senate Foreign Relations Committee unanimously approved the man who has led the panel for the past four years.
No date has been set for Kerry's swearing-in, though a welcoming ceremony is planned at the State Department on Monday.
Obama tapped Kerry, 69, the son of a diplomat, decorated Vietnam veteran and 2004 Democratic presidential candidate, to succeed Clinton, who is stepping down after four years. The Massachusetts Democrat, who had pined for the job but was passed over in 2009, has served as Obama's unofficial envoy, smoothing fractious ties with Afghanistan and Pakistan.
"Senator Kerry will need no introduction to the world's political and military leaders and will begin day one fully conversant not only with the intricacies of U.S. foreign policy, but able to act on a multitude of international stages," said Senator Bob Menendez, a Democrat from New Jersey, who will succeed Kerry as committee chairman.
Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee, the panel's top Republican, called Kerry "a realist" who will deal with unrest in Egypt, civil war in Syria, the threat of al-Qaeda-linked groups in Africa and Iran's pursuit of nuclear weapons.
Kerry, a forceful proponent of climate change legislation, also will have a say in whether the United States moves ahead on the Keystone XL pipeline from Canada, a divisive issue that has roiled environmentalists.
Obama had nominated Kerry after Susan Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, removed her name from consideration following criticism from Republicans over her initial comments about the attacks on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya.
Voting against Kerry were three Republicans — Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma and John Cornyn and Ted Cruz of Texas. Absent from the vote were Senators Patty Murray, a Democrat from Washington, and John Hoeven, a Republican from North Dakota.
"Senator Kerry has a long history of liberal positions that are not consistent with a majority of Texans," Cornyn said in a statement. The senator is up for re-election next year and could face a tea party challenge.
Kerry's smooth path to the nation's top diplomatic job stands in stark contrast to the harsher treatment for Obama's other national security nominees — Chuck Hagel to be defence secretary and John Brennan to be CIA director.
Hagel, the former two-term Republican senator from Nebraska, faces strong opposition from some of his onetime Republican colleagues who question his support for reductions in the nuclear arsenal and cuts in defence spending. Legislators also have questioned whether he is sufficiently supportive of Israel and strongly opposed to any outreach to Iran.
Democrats have rallied for Hagel, and he has the announced support of at least a dozen members in advance of his confirmation hearing on Thursday. Senator Thad Cochran of Mississippi will support Hagel, a spokesman said Tuesday, making him the first Republican to signal he will vote for the nomination.
Six Republicans have said they would vote against him, with some opposing Obama's choice even before the president's announcement.
Brennan faces questions from the Republican about White House leaks of classified information and from Democrats about the administration's use of drones.
Senator Lindsey Graham, a Republican from South Carolina, threatened to block the nomination of both men until he gets more answers from the Obama administration about the assault on the U.S. diplomatic mission in Libya that killed U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans.
Delaying CIA pick
Graham, who earlier this month signaled he would delay Brennan's pick, said in an interview Monday night with Fox News' On the Record that he would "absolutely" block Hagel unless Defence Secretary Leon Panetta testifies about the attack in Benghazi, Libya.
Clinton testified for more than five hours last Wednesday before the House and Senate, but that wasn't sufficient for Graham.
"Hillary Clinton got away with murder, in my view," he said. "She said they had a clear-eyed view of the threats. How could you have a clear-eyed of the threats in Benghazi when you didn't know about the ambassador's cable coming back from Libya?"
Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin, a Democrat from Michigan, told reporters Tuesday that a hearing with Panetta on Libya is planned though the date is uncertain. Graham welcomed that news and said he would not thwart a committee vote on the nomination.
"Happy as a clam. News to me," said Graham, who met with Hagel for 20 minutes on Tuesday.
Pentagon spokesman George Little said Panetta had not responded yet to the request but that the department has been forthcoming with information. He insisted that the Hagel confirmation process move as quickly as possible.
Two former chairmen of the committee — Democrat Sam Nunn of Georgia and Republican John Warner of Virginia — plan to introduce Hagel, according to officials close to the confirmation process. They spoke on condition of anonymity because the committee has not formally made an announcement.
As a White House emissary, Kerry has tamped down diplomatic fires for Obama. He also has stepped ahead of the administration on a handful of crises. He joined Senator John McCain, a Republican from Arizona, as an early proponent of a more aggressive policy toward Libya, pushing for using military forces to impose a "no-fly zone" over Libya as Moammar Gadhafi's forces killed rebels and other citizens. He was one of the early voices calling for Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak to step down as revolution roiled the nation two years ago.
During his tenure, Kerry has pushed for reducing the number of nuclear weapons, shepherding a U.S.-Russia treaty through the Senate in December 2010, and has cast climate change as a national security threat, joining forces with Republicans on legislation that faced too many obstacles to win congressional passage.
He has led delegations to Syria and met a few times with President Bashar Assad, now a pariah in U.S. eyes after months of civil war and bloodshed as the government looks to put down a people's rebellion. Figuring out an end-game for the Middle East country would demand all of Kerry's skills.
The selection of Kerry closes a political circle with Obama. In 2004, it was White House hopeful Kerry who asked a largely unknown Illinois state senator to deliver the keynote address at the Democratic convention in Boston, handing the national stage to Obama. Kerry lost that election to former president George W. Bush. Four years later, Obama was the White House hopeful who succeeded where Kerry had failed.
Top News Headlines
- Tornado strikes 2 elementary schools in Oklahoma
- A more than one-kilometre wide tornado hit two elementary schools around the Oklahoma City area on Monday, reported CNN, as twisters churned through the city's suburbs for the second day in a row. more »
- Unknown remains found on Dellen Millard's farm
- Police searching the farm of Dellen Millard, the 27-year-old charged with first-degree murder after the remains of Ancaster, Ont., man Tim Bosma were discovered, have found other remains on the property, but it's unclear if they are human or animal. more »
- Canadian on EI shut out amid foreign worker influx
- A jobless Canadian IT professional who is collecting employment insurance is upset because he now suspects several recent jobs he applied for went to temporary foreign workers. more »
- Can the Senate fire a senator?
- An expert on parliamentary rules says the Senate has the power to turf a senator from the chamber, as long as a majority approves the expulsion, and as long as there is cause. more »
Latest World News Headlines
- North Korea fires weapons after 'rocket launching tests'
- North Korea continued firing short-range weapons over its own eastern waters today after a weekend of what it called "rocket launching tests" intended to bolster deterrence against enemy attack. South Korean officials were investigating exactly what the North was testing. more »
- Yahoo buys Tumblr blogging site for $1.1B
- Yahoo is buying online blogging forum Tumblr for $1.1 billion as CEO Marissa Mayer tries to rejuvenate an internet icon that had fallen behind the times. more »
- D-Day beaches wind turbine proposal seeks Canadian comments
- Canadians are being given the opportunity to voice their opinions on a plan to build 75 wind turbines off the D-Day beaches in France. more »
- Nahlah Ayed: Vote-wary Iranians mull Ahmadinejad's successor
- Iranians go to the polls in less than four weeks to choose a new president. The reform movement is still smarting from its bitter defeat four years ago, but the jockeying for power is no less intense, Nahlah Ayed reports. more »
- PM's chief of staff resigns as Senate expense scandal unfolds May. 20, 2013 6:18 PM After a week of political turmoil over the Senate expense scandal, the Prime Minister's chief of staff Nigel Wright has resigned. But questions about the $90,000 cheque he cut for Senator Mike Duffy continue to swirl.
- Unknown remains found on Dellen Millard's farm
- Canadian on EI shut out amid foreign worker influx
- Central Newfoundland digs out from freak snowfall
- Petition looks to rename Victoria Day
- Missing Toronto woman's parents unfazed by Millard link
- Vancouver man attacked, killed in Costa Rica
- Edmonton driver, 62, charged in boy's patio death
- Jeep driver apologizes after stunt kills Edmonton woman
- Rob Ford should resign if allegations true, councillors say