Clinton Confirmed as Secretary of State

Posted January 21, 2009 at 4:04pm

Hillary Rodham Clinton’s nomination to serve as secretary of State was easily approved by the Senate on Wednesday afternoon, with lawmakers voting 94-2 to install their outgoing colleague to the prominent administration post.

GOP Sens. Jim DeMint (S.C.) and David Vitter (La.) were the lone opponents to her confirmation.

The Senate vote came after Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) lifted a hold on the nomination. Cornyn had expressed concerns a day earlier about her financial ties to the Clinton Foundation, former President Bill Clinton’s global nonprofit organization that has received contributions from entities abroad. Cornyn’s move effectively stalled Clinton’s confirmation by 24 hours.

“My concern is not whether our colleague, Sen. Clinton, is qualified to be secretary of State or not. She is,” Cornyn said on the Senate floor Wednesday. “I intend to vote for her confirmation, but I also believe it’s very important to flesh out some of the concerns that have been raised.”

But as Cornyn was calling for more debate, his Senate colleagues demanded a swift approval for Clinton so she can quickly get to work on pressing foreign policy matters.

In a strongly worded floor speech, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), the 2008 GOP presidential nominee, demanded support for Clinton’s installment. Soon after his remarks, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said he “enthusiastically” supported her.

Foreign Relations Chairman John Kerry (D-Mass.) also noted the urgency of installing a secretary of State and assured Senators that Clinton’s relationship with her husband’s foundation should not stall her approval.

“I am confident that sufficient checks and balances exist here that this should not call into question whether Sen. Clinton should assume these responsibilities and begin serving the country as secretary of State,” Kerry said on the floor. “This is not the moment to delay American engagement in ongoing crises.”

The Senate was originally slated to vote on Clinton’s nomination Tuesday, when the body approved seven other Obama administration appointees. Cornyn’s objection held up the Clinton’s confirmation by one day, a move that prevented the former first lady from attending a national security briefing at the White House this afternoon.

A Cornyn spokesman maintained the Republican wanted to have floor debate on Clinton’s finances but always supported the nominee.

It remains unclear when Clinton will officially step down from her Senate seat, which she has held for eight years.