WASHINGTON With only three "no" votes, the Senate on Tuesday confirmed veteran lawmaker and former presidential candidate John Kerry to succeed Hillary Rodham Clinton as the secretary of state for the Obama administration's second term.
The Massachusetts Democrat, 69, glided through his confirmation process, with supporters noting his quarter-century in the Senate, across-the-aisle friendships with Republicans, nearly 100 overseas trips, family ties to the Foreign Service, and status as a Vietnam veteran.
Although no time for a swearing-in has been announced, Kerry was expected to deliver a speech today.
Clinton's last day as secretary will be Friday, her office announced.
Not a single objection to Kerry's candidacy was raised in either last week's hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, which Kerry had led before recusing himself, or in the two-hour debate period before the full Senate vote Tuesday.
Even so, there were "no" votes from three Republicans: John Cornyn and Ted Cruz of Texas, and Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma. Ninety-four senators voted in favor of Kerry's candidacy; one voted present and that was Kerry.
The overwhelming bipartisan support for Kerry "sends a very clear message to the world that this is America's representative, this is our secretary of state, and I believe he's earned the vote," said Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., who succeeded Kerry as chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee.
The confirmation might have been the easy part. Now, Kerry is poised to inherit a long list of worsening conflicts and humanitarian crises in which U.S. policy has waffled or remained opaque and heavily criticized.
In just the Middle East and North Africa, Kerry is confronted with the civil war in Syria, the French-led fight to dislodge extremists from northern Mali, and fresh violence in U.S. partners Egypt, Libya and Iraq.
Kerry also will have delicate internal affairs to manage as Republicans pledge to continue their sharp questioning of the State Department's conduct and security posture at the time of the deadly Sept. 11 attacks on U.S. posts in the eastern Libyan city of Benghazi. The debacle cost President Barack Obama his first choice for Clinton's replacement, U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice.
As if to underscore that they intended to revive the debate for a second term, three House Republicans Ed Royce and Darrell Issa of California, and Jason Chaffetz of Utah wrote to the State Department on Monday demanding to see all Benghazi-related emails, cables and memoranda that Clinton received.
On top of the internal fallout from Benghazi, one of the most pressing matters Kerry will face is the blood-soaked Syrian uprising turned civil war. On Tuesday, the administration announced a $155 million bump in humanitarian aid, putting the total U.S. aid to Syria at $365 million.
However, as Kerry reiterated at the hearing last week, there was no imminent shift in the long-standing U.S. policy of refusing to provide arms directly to the Syrian rebels.