I'M GLAD U. S. SENATE CONFIRMED JOHN KERRY AS SECRETARY OF STATE. I CAN'T WAIT FOR CHUCK HAGEL TO BE CONFIRMED TOO.
Kerry Sails Through the Senate as Secretary of State
By MICHAEL R. GORDON
WASHINGTON — The Senate confirmed Senator John Kerry as secretary of state on Tuesday, filling a key position on President Obama’s retooled national security team.
The nomination was approved by a vote of 94 to 3. Only three senators, all Republicans, opposed the nomination: Ted Cruz and John Cornyn of Texas, and James M. Inhofe of Oklahoma. Mr. Kerry voted present.
Mr. Obama’s first choice for the job, Susan E. Rice, the ambassador to the United Nations, withdrew as a candidate after Republicans criticized her for comments she made after last September’s deadly attack on the American diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya.
Mr. Kerry, a Massachusetts Democrat who has served in the Senate since 1985, had strong support on both sides of the aisle. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee, the panel he has led for the last four years, gave his nomination unanimous approval hours before the Senate vote.
In a statement, Mr. Obama took note of Mr. Kerry’s bipartisan support. “John has earned the respect of leaders around the world and the confidence of Democrats and Republicans in the Senate, and I am confident he will make an extraordinary secretary of state,” the president said.
Mr. Kerry, who is a Vietnam veteran, a former presidential nominee and the son of a diplomat, will be inheriting a difficult agenda. The conflict in Syria has killed more than 60,000 people. The international envoy on the Syrian crisis, Lakhdar Brahimi, who reported to the United Nations Security Council on Tuesday, has made no headway. Egypt is in turmoil. By Mr. Kerry’s own account, relations with Russia have deteriorated.
As chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee during Mr. Obama’s first term, Mr. Kerry was a loyal ally of the White House and served as an interlocutor with President Bashar al-Assad of Syria and President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan, among others.
During a nearly four-hour confirmation hearing last week, Mr. Kerry demonstrated familiarity with a broad range of issues, but he did not present any new ideas on how to address them.
Hillary Rodham Clinton, whose last day as secretary of state is Friday, said at a global forum at the Newseum on Tuesday that she expected Mr. Kerry to undertake a new effort to narrow differences between Israel and the Palestinians.
Taking note of the recent Israeli parliamentary elections, in which a centrist coalition made significant gains, Mrs. Clinton said that the shifting political landscape might facilitate progress.
“I actually think that this election opens doors, not nails them shut,” she said. “I know that President Obama, my successor, soon to be Secretary of State John Kerry, will pursue this.”
Mr. Kerry, 69, suggested in his confirmation hearing last week that he would try to make headway in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, though he provided no specifics as to how.
“I have a lot of thoughts about that challenge,” he said. “We need to try to find a way forward, and I happen to believe that there is a way forward.”
Mr. Obama has also named former Senator Chuck Hagel, Republican of Nebraska, to succeed Leon E. Panetta as secretary of defense, and John O. Brennan, Mr. Obama’s chief counterterrorism adviser, as director of the Central Intelligence Agency, permanently succeeding David H. Petraeus, who resigned in November.
Mr. Hagel and Mr. Brennan will surely face more questions than Mr. Kerry did from senators of both parties when their confirmation hearings are held, though their nominations are expected to be approved.
Mr. Hagel’s hearing is scheduled for Thursday, and Mr. Brennan’s for Feb. 7.
No date has been set for Mr. Kerry’s resignation from the Senate. The governor of Massachusetts, Deval Patrick, a Democrat, will make an interim appointment to succeed Mr. Kerry until a special election can be held.