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Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.)

  • Residence: Chappaqua
  • Born: October 26, 1947; Chicago, Ill.
  • Religion: Methodist
  • Family: Husband, Bill Clinton; one child
  • Education: Wellesley College, B.A. 1969 (political science); Yale U., J.D. 1973
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(Updated: Jan. 6, 2009)

News Update: Clinton Resigns. On Jan. 21, 2009, Clinton resigned in order to become secretary of State.

CQ Politics in America Profile

Clinton tends to take the bite-sized approach to policy-making her husband Bill perfected as president in the 1990s rather than the frontal assault on Washington politics that typically pleases crowds. Such tactics, as well as her inspiration to women voters and her tendency to work across the aisle on certain issues weren't enough to win her the 2008 Democratic nomination for president, but she emerged from that bitter contest as the choice of her onetime rival, President-elect Obama, for secretary of State.

After conceding the nomination to the Illinois senator in 2008, Clinton returned to the Senate and resumed her role of attending committee hearings and casting votes. But she continued to have so many political duties that she often seemed to have one foot in the chamber and one foot out. Upon her return, she insisted she wanted only to resume being the workhorse she had been in her first term. "My goal is to be the very best senator I can be and represent the greatest state in our country," Clinton told reporters that day. "I am not seeking any other position." Still, she took time out from her Senate duties to attend fundraisers with Obama, and she kept up a full schedule of speeches to political groups.

Her nomination to Obama's cabinet was announced Dec. 1 after the Clinton and Obama camps worked out an arrangement to head off potential conflicts of interest with former President Bill Clinton, whose global speaking engagements and philanthropic work around the Clinton Global Initiative have raised concerns.

Though she acknowledged she was reluctant to leave the Senate, Clinton said challenges such as terrorism, global warming and the global economy convinced her to accept the post. "The fate of our nation and the future of our children will be forged in the crucible of these global challenges," she said. "America cannot solve these crises without the world, and the world cannot solve them without America."

Her nomination led Congress to clear a measure allowing her to take the job without running afoul of the Constitution. The joint resolution reduced the secretary's salary so that Clinton's confirmation to the post would comply with Article I, Section 6 of the Constitution. Known as the Emoluments Clause, that section says no member of Congress can be appointed to a government job covered by a pay increase during the lawmaker's current term. The language was designed to prevent lawmakers from enriching themselves by moving into posts for which they set the salaries.

Clinton chose to remain in her Senate seat through the start of the 111th Congress (2009-10) and until she is confirmed as secretary of State.

She has always been an active legislator, working with Republicans on relatively non-controversial issues and pushing for incremental changes on favorite causes, including health care and, more recently, oversight of the Iraq War that she voted for in 2002.

For example, Clinton and Republican Lindsey Graham of South Carolina -- who as a House member in 1998 helped lead impeachment proceedings against Clinton's husband -- sponsored the 2004 law that allows National Guard and reserve members to use the military's health care system, regardless of whether or not they are deployed. And Clinton worked with Republican Sen. Pat Roberts of Kansas on legislation to distribute flu vaccines more efficiently, which led to similar provisions in a 2006 law to improve the nation's responses to public health emergencies.

She has focused much of her time on such measures as demonstration projects to improve mental health care for the elderly, access to health care for legal immigrant children and pregnant women, aid to states to create voluntary preschool programs, and a section of the "No Child Left Behind" education law that authorizes funds for recruiting and retaining teachers and principals. She also wrote legislation signed into law in 2006 that provides grants to state and local governments to pay for respite care services for family caregivers.

As a presidential candidate in 2008, Clinton put much of the Democratic caucus in a bind when she endorsed a variation of Republican Sen. John McCain's call for a "gas tax holiday," a temporary reprieve from the federal gas tax. Most Democrats wanted to dismiss the idea as a gimmick that would have little actual effect on gas prices, as Obama did on the campaign trail, but they didn't want to be seen as taking sides against Clinton, who turned her support for the idea into a major campaign theme against Obama. (The main difference between her version and McCain's was that she would have used a windfall profits tax to replace the revenue loss to the Highway Trust Fund.)

But Clinton also championed proposals to restrict the Iraq War that put her on more solid ground with her Democratic colleagues, introducing legislation that would have barred the Bush administration from negotiating a long-term security agreement with the Iraqi government without permission from Congress. Those efforts, however, never made up for the fact that she had voted to authorize the increasingly unpopular war, a fact Obama was able to use to his advantage.

For much of her first term in the Senate, Clinton inched toward the political center, talking more about faith and prayer, and counseling tolerance of people opposed to abortion and same-sex marriage. But she tacked leftward as she began her presidential run in 2007, voting against an emergency spending bill for the Iraq War because it didn't include a timetable for withdrawal. And in July 2008, shortly after her return from the campaign trail, Clinton moved to Obama's left by voting against a rewrite of the nation's electronic surveillance laws that essentially guarantees immunity for telecommunications companies that had cooperated with the Bush administration's warrantless surveillance program.

During her early years in the Senate, Clinton stayed almost totally focused on New York issues, proving herself as a public servant to a state where she hadn't spent much time.

By the time she stood for re-election in 2006, Clinton had invested significant time cultivating upstate moderates and Republicans to lessen her dependence on New York City's liberal voters. She also intentionally focused on parochial issues in her first term, working to secure funding for the city's subway system and economic development projects for upstate New York. She was instrumental in saving the Niagara Air Base from closure, keeping 800 New York state jobs in the process.

Her colleagues grew to know her as an extremely well-prepared legislator who asked specific, serious policy questions at hearings and kept the political rhetoric to a minimum. Despite her lack of seniority on the Armed Services Committee, she won the admiration of its senior members. Sen. John W. Warner of Virginia, then chairman, described Clinton as "very industrious. She does her homework very carefully."

Her bipartisan partnerships belie a generally liberal voting record. Clinton voted with her party 94 percent of the time in the 109th Congress (2005-06) on votes that pitted Democrats against Republicans, and her score shot up to 98 percent in 2007 as she hit the campaign trail.

Despite her efforts to be a model freshman senator, she has never been far from the limelight. Her 2003 memoir, "Living History," for which she received an advance of $8 million, became the fastest-selling nonfiction book of that time. And Democratic officials got a blunt reminder that Clinton was not just another senator when they passed her over for a speaking role at the 2004 national convention in Boston. Democratic women objected loudly and she was given a prime-time role introducing her husband.

The daughter of a furniture company executive, Hillary Rodham was ambitious, with the smarts to back it up. She grew up in the well-heeled Chicago suburb of Park Ridge. She went to law school at Yale University, a fateful choice that resulted in her meeting fellow student Bill Clinton, her equal in intelligence and ambition. After graduation, they went to Texas to work for George McGovern's 1972 presidential campaign. Bill Clinton returned to his native Arkansas to teach law and lay the foundation to run for office, while she went to Washington to work for the House Judiciary Committee as special counsel on the impeachment of President Nixon. Hillary and Bill married in 1975 and she joined him in Arkansas, working for the Rose Law Firm in Little Rock and for the Legal Services Corporation.

Their first attempt to get Bill Clinton elected to office failed, when he lost a 1974 House race. But as a political unit, they were a disciplined and savvy team, even though as a couple they famously fought and Clinton's career was shadowed by chronic rumors of his dalliances with other women.

He went on to become the governor of Arkansas and a leader of the centrist movement in the Democratic Party; she was his top adviser and activist first lady. They brought that operating mode to the White House in 1993. Hillary had an enormous impact on Oval Office decisions in her husband's two terms, including an ill-fated attempt in 1993 to revamp the health care system. She stood by him publicly in his darkest hour -- impeachment proceedings in 1998 stemming from his attempt to cover up an affair with a White House intern.

Once her husband finished his second term, Clinton was free to pursue a political career of her own. Though she had never lived in New York, she announced she would move there and run for the Senate. As a former first lady, she had tremendous advantages in the Democratic-leaning state, but Republicans pounced on the fact that she had never lived there and accused her of sheer political ambition.

They had a strong and seasoned candidate in Rep. Rick A. Lazio, but Clinton won handily by 12 percentage points. In 2006, she romped to re-election with two-thirds of the vote.

She jumped into the presidential race in January 2007, shortly after Obama announced his campaign. After leading the field of Democrats on the strength of her name and experienced organization, Clinton was stung by Obama's win in the Iowa caucuses, then came back to win the New Hampshire primary. The two traded primary victories back and forth, but Clinton never fully recovered from a string of defeats that gave Obama an insurmountable edge in delegates. In June 2008, after the final primaries in Montana and South Dakota, Clinton suspended her campaign and endorsed her former rival.

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