With bipartisanship and uncommon speed, the Senate confirmed Wednesday the top two members of President Clinton’s new national security team - Madeleine Albright as secretary of state and William Cohen as secretary of defense.
Albright becomes the first woman in U.S. history to serve as secretary of state. As such, she is the highest-ranking woman ever in the executive branch.
Cohen, former senator from Maine, is the only Republican in Clinton’s second-term Cabinet.
In separate votes only hours apart, Albright and Cohen were confirmed, 99-0, after debates in which they received nothing but praise.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., said Albright “holds a unique opportunity to conduct a bipartisan foreign policy. As the first woman to serve as secretary of state, Madeleine Albright’s nomination will open up new doors for women - not just in this country but around the world.”
Albright also won plaudits from Sen. Jesse Helms, R-N.C., the Foreign Relations Committee chairman who frequently has clashed with Clinton’s national security aides.
“She’s a strong lady,” Helms said. “She’s a courageous lady.” But Helms added: “My support for the nomination should in no way be misconstrued as an endorsement of the Clinton foreign policy.”
The quick approval of Cohen was especially unusual. He underwent a confirmation hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee in the morning and within hours was the civilian leader of the Pentagon.
Cohen, who retired from the Senate after 18 years earlier this month, said he intends to give Clinton honest advice but doesn’t expect to win all the battles that routinely take place among top national security advisers.
Albright succeeds Warren Christopher. Cohen succeeds William Perry.