His only other rival for the job, U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice, faced harsh criticism from congressional Republicans for her initial accounting of the deadly September attack on Americans in Benghazi, Libya. Obama vigorously defended Rice, a close friend and longtime adviser, but GOP senators dug in, threatening to hold up her nomination if the president tapped her for the post.
Rice withdrew her name from consideration last week, making Kerry all but certain to become the nominee. People familiar with the White House’s decision-making said support within the administration was moving toward Kerry even before Rice pulled out.
The Cabinet nomination of Kerry is the first Obama has made since winning a second term, and the first piece in an extensive shuffle of his national security team. The president is also expected to nominate a new defense secretary soon to take over for retiring Leon Panetta and a new director of the Central Intelligence Agency to replace former spy chief David Petraeus, who resigned last month after admitting to an affair with his biographer.
Former Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel of Nebraska is a front-runner for the Pentagon post, but has been dogged by questions about his support for Israel and where he stands on gay rights, with critics calling on him to repudiate a comment in 1998 that a former ambassadorial nominee was “openly, aggressively gay.”
As the nation’s top diplomat, Kerry will be tasked with not only executing the president’s foreign policy objectives, but also shaping Obama’s approach. The senator offered some insight into his world view on Thursday during a Senate Foreign Relations committee hearing he chaired on the deadly attack on a U.S. consulate in Benghazi.
Kerry called on Congress to put enough money into America’s foreign policy objectives and said doing so is an investment “in our long-term security and more often than not it saves far more expensive expenditures in dollars and lives for the conflicts that we failed to see or avoid.”