Senate Installs Kirk as U.S. Trade Rep

Posted March 18, 2009 at 1:40pm

Updated: 3:01 p.m.

The Senate voted 92-5 on Wednesday to confirm former Dallas Mayor Ron Kirk (D) as the United States trade representative.

With Kirk’s installment as the trade representative a near lock going into its final vote, Senators focused more on embattled insurance giant American International Group during the 90 minute floor debate designated for the nomination.

The Finance Committee approved Kirk’s nomination on March 12 on a voice vote, just three days after he testified before the panel.

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said he would vote for Kirk “with some reluctance— after criticizing what he argued were protectionist moves by the Obama administration on trade policy, including blocking Mexican trucks from entering the United States.

The objections were not enough to overcome Kirk’s imminent confirmation, however.

Kirk “will remain constantly on the lookout for America’s workers,— Finance Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) said. “He will shine a spotlight on trade violations. He will vigilantly enforce our international agreements. And he will speed our economic recovery by opening markets for American exports.—

Meanwhile, Commerce secretary appointee and former Washington Gov. Gary Locke (D) testified Wednesday before the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee on his nomination. Locke’s confirmation is expected to move smoothly through the committee and onto the Senate floor. Hearings for Health and Human Services secretary nominee Gov. Kathleen Sebelius (D-Kan.) have yet to be scheduled.

The five Senators opposing Kirk’s nomination were Democrat Robert Byrd (W.Va.), Independent Bernie Sanders (Vt.) and Republicans Kit Bond (Mo.), Jim Bunning (Ky.) and Johnny Isakson (Ga.).