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Senate Foreign Relations Chairman John Kerry won the overwhelming endorsement of his colleagues Tuesday to be the next secretary of State, and he will head across town to Foggy Bottom in days.
The Senate voted 94-3 to confirm President Barack Obama’s pick to take over for Hillary Rodham Clinton, with Republicans Ted Cruz and John Cornyn of Texas and James M. Inhofe of Oklahoma voting against the nomination.
Clinton, whose last day on the job is this Friday, will deliver her final address as secretary to the Council on Foreign Relations on Thursday.
Obama said in a written statement Tuesday evening that Kerry’s distinguished career, from his decorated service in Vietnam through his decades in the Senate championing U.S. global leadership, has prepared him to guide U.S. diplomacy.
“John has earned the respect of leaders around the world and the confidence of Democrats and Republicans in the Senate,” Obama said, “and I am confident he will make an extraordinary secretary of State.”
Viewed as a shoo-in for the State Department post, Kerry, D-Mass., has drawn bipartisan praise throughout his confirmation process. That trend continued during Tuesday’s floor debate.
“I can think of no one better prepared to take on the challenges of this position,” New Jersey Democrat Robert Menendez said, citing Kerry’s relationships with world leaders.
Tennessee’s Bob Corker, the top Republican on Foreign Relations, said of Kerry, “My sense is he will be open to listening” even in the face of policy disagreements going forward.
Earlier Tuesday, the panel advanced Kerry’s nomination by voice vote. Menendez presided over that vote, and the Senate approved him as Kerry’s successor (S Res 20) by unanimous consent Tuesday evening.
Kerry was absent from the brief but light-hearted meeting, but walked into the room moments after the vote and thanked his fellow senators for their support.
“I’m honored beyond words,” Kerry said, telling colleagues he will say more when he delivers a floor speech Wednesday. Afterward, Kerry told reporters he is “very wistful” about leaving the Senate, where he has served for nearly three decades. His tenure as a U.S. senator will end at 4 p.m. Friday.
Kerry’s departure from the Senate will trigger a special election for his seat, which could feature a comeback bid by former GOP Sen. Scott P. Brown, who lost his re-election race to Democrat Elizabeth Warren. Brown has yet to announce whether he plans to run.
On the Democratic side, Massachusetts Reps. Edward J. Markey and Stephen F. Lynch could face off in a primary contest April 30. The state’s Democratic governor, Deval Patrick, will appoint an interim senator to serve until the June 25 contest for the final two years of Kerry’s term.