US Senate Confirms Hillary as Secretary of State

Article excerpt

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Senate confirmed Hillary Rodham Clinton as secretary of state Wednesday, and President Barack Obama moved to make his imprint on US foreign policy by mobilizing a fresh team of veteran advisers and telephoning world leaders.

The Senate voted 94-2, with Republican Sens. David Vitter of Louisiana and Jim DeMint of South Carolina opposing.

Republicans and Democrats alike said her swift confirmation was necessary so that Obama could begin tackling the major foreign policy issues at hand, including two wars, increased violence in the Middle East and the possibility of a nucleararmed Iran.

"It is essential that we provide the president with the tools and resources he needs to effect change, and that starts with putting a national security team in place as soon as possible," said Democratic Sen. John Kerry, chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee.

Obama's presidential rival, Sen. John McCain, was among those who spoke up for Clinton.

"This nation has come together in a way that it has not for some time," said the Arizona Republican, on the Senate floor for the first time since the inauguration.

Voters "want us to work together and get to work," McCain said.

As the Senate debated Clinton's appointment, Obama wasted no time in his first day at the White House. According to a White House spokesman, Obama placed telephone calls to Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Jordan's King Abdullah II and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

The administration also planned to name former Senate Democratic leader George J. Mitchell as Clinton's special envoy for the Middle East. Dennis Ross, a longtime U.S. negotiator, was expected to advise Clinton on Mideast policy, according to officials who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly about the move.

Clinton was sworn in as the nation's 67th secretary of state in her office in the Russell Senate Office Building. Attending the private ceremony was her husband, former President Bill Clinton, and her Senate staff. According to her office, she used the Bible that belonged to her late father. To assume the position, she resigned as senator in twin letters to Vice President Joe Biden, as president of the Senate, and New York Gov. David Paterson.

The former first lady planned to report to the State Department on Thursday, where she was expected to make a morning speech to employees in the main lobby, a tradition of sorts for secretaries of state on their first day on the job.

Clinton received overwhelming bipartisan support in Congress despite lingering concerns by some Republicans that her husband's charitable fundraising overseas could pose conflicts of interest.

Sen. Richard Lugar, ranking Republican on the Foreign Relations Committee, proposed that the former president's foundation reject foreign contributions. Hillary Clinton rejected the proposal, contending that the foundation's plan to disclose annually its list of donors and a range of its contributions already exceeds legal requirements. …