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January 30, 2013

Senate confirms Kerry as secretary of state

WASHINGTON — The Senate overwhelmingly confirmed President Barack Obama’s choice of five-term Sen. John Kerry to be secretary of state, with Republicans and Democrats praising him as the ideal successor to Hillary Rodham Clinton.

The vote yesterday was 94-3. One senator — Kerry — voted present and accepted congratulations from colleagues on the Senate floor. The roll call came just hours after the Senate Foreign Relations Committee unanimously approved the man who has led the panel for the past four years.

Kerry could be sworn in as early as today. A welcoming ceremony is planned at the State Department on Monday.

Obama tapped Kerry, 69, the son of a diplomat, decorated Vietnam veteran and 2004 Democratic presidential candidate, to succeed Clinton, who is stepping down after four years. The Massachusetts Democrat, who had pined for the job but was passed over in 2009, has served as Obama’s unofficial envoy, smoothing fractious ties with Afghanistan and Pakistan.

“Sen. Kerry will need no introduction to the world’s political and military leaders and will begin Day One fully conversant not only with the intricacies of U.S. foreign policy, but able to act on a multitude of international stages,” said Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., who will succeed Kerry as committee chairman.

Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee, the panel’s top Republican, called Kerry “a realist” who will deal with unrest in Egypt, civil war in Syria, the threat of al-Qaida-linked groups in Africa and Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons.

Kerry, a forceful proponent of climate change legislation, also will have a say in whether the United States moves ahead on the Keystone XL pipeline from Canada, a divisive issue that has roiled environmentalists.

Voting against Kerry were three Republicans — Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma and John Cornyn and Ted Cruz of Texas. Absent from the vote were Sens. Patty Murray, D-Wash., and John Hoeven, R-N.D.

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