The US Senate on Tuesday approved John Kerry as
the next secretary of state in a bipartisan 94-3 vote.
Kerry, 69, who will replace Hillary Rodham Clinton as the nation's top diplomat, stood on the floor of the Senate to receive congratulations from his colleagues as the votes were cast. Kerry did not cast a yes or no vote for himself, but voted "present."
"I speak on behalf of everyone here that we so admire the job (Kerry) has done in his past life in so many phases," Senator Chuck Schumer said after the vote. "We're excited for his time as secretary of state and we think for John Kerry the best is yet to come."
The three no votes came from Republican lawmakers, senators Ted Cruz and John Cornyn of Texas and Senator Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma.
A member of the Foreign Relations Committee throughout his 28 years in the Senate, and its chairman since 2009, Kerry testified to the same panel last week as part of the confirmation process.
"The State Department could not be in better hands," said Senator Robert Menendez, who is due to replace Kerry as chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, as discussion of the nomination got under way.
Kerry, who ran unsuccessfully for president as a Democrat in 2004, has been active in shaping policy toward Afghanistan and Pakistan, strongly engaged on Sudan and South Sudan, and helped push the New START nuclear arms reduction treaty with Russia through the Senate in December 2010.
"People all over the world are looking to the United States for leadership. We are known as the indispensable nation for good reason. No nation has more opportunity to advance the cause of democracy. No nation is as committed to the cause of human rights as we are," Kerry said at his confirmation hearing last week.
Clinton has said her last day on the job will be Friday, when Kerry is expected to be sworn in. He is to give a farewell address to the Senate Wednesday. Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick will name a temporary successor to fill his seat before a special election set for June 25.
Clinton noted Tuesday that Kerry will have a full plate of diplomatic issues ahead of him.
"We have to deal with the immediate crises that come across our desk every day," Clinton said of the challenges of the office. "We have to work on the longer-term challenges, like security in North Africa. And we have to deal with what I call the trend lines, not the headlines."
She told an international town hall forum that her greatest regret from her time as secretary was the death of four Americans in the attack on the US consulate in Benghazi, Libya, last year.
The department's handling of the incident came under intense political scrutiny and scuttled UN ambassador Susan Rice's chance to become secretary of state after her characterization of the attack was challenged.
The issue is likely to continue to simmer during Kerry's first days in office, with Republican Senator Lindsey Graham accusing Clinton in a television interview of "getting away with murder."
President Barack Obama's cabinet is being reshuffled as he begins his second four-year term in office. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood Tuesday became the latest official to announce his departure from the administration. Defence Secretary Leon Panetta and Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner are among the others who have announced their departures from government.
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