WASHINGTON – The Senate voted overwhelmingly Tuesday to confirm Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., as secretary of state, filling a crucial national security spot in President Barack Obama’s second-term Cabinet.
Kerry, who ran as the Democratic presidential nominee in 2004, will replace Hillary Rodham Clinton, who will step down as America’s top diplomat on Friday.
After the 94-3 vote, Kerry submitted a letter of resignation, effective Friday, to give up the Senate seat he has held since 1985. He will take the oath of office in a private ceremony.
Obama’s nominee for secretary of defense, Chuck Hagel, has his confirmation hearing on Thursday. Unlike Kerry, the former Republican senator from Nebraska is expected to face considerable opposition in the Senate.
Kerry failed to win only three Republican votes – Sens. John Cornyn and Ted Cruz, both of Texas, and Sen. James Inhofe of Oklahoma.
Earlier Tuesday, Kerry received the unanimous endorsement of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in a voice vote. He served on the committee for 28 years and chaired it for the last four.
Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee, the ranking Republican on the committee, praised Kerry as a “realist” on foreign affairs issues, and said he was always “open to discussion” with members of the other party.
Several Republican senators had promoted Kerry as an alternative to Susan Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, for the job. Rice withdrew her name from consideration amid mounting Republican criticism of her statements on TV talk shows following the deadly Sept. 11 attacks on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya.
Kerry faces formidable challenges in his new job.
The first Obama administration made little headway at solving foreign policy problems in Iran, Syria, North Korea and elsewhere. Kerry also will deal with a White House that prefers to keep decisions on key issues of war and peace in its own hands.