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Blinken wins strong Senate approval to lead State Department

Longtime adviser to Joe Biden and former deputy secretary of State is confirmed on a 78-22 vote

Antony Blinken arrives for his confirmation hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Tuesday, Jan. 19, 2021.
Antony Blinken arrives for his confirmation hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Tuesday, Jan. 19, 2021. (Caroline Brehman/CQ Roll Call)

The Senate by a broad bipartisan margin on Tuesday confirmed Antony Blinken to be President Joe Biden’s top diplomat with a mission to re-empower the beleaguered State Department and rebuild America’s reputation with foreign allies.

Blinken, who previously served as deputy secretary of State in the Obama administration, was confirmed on a vote of 78-22.

At his Senate Foreign Relations confirmation hearing last week, Blinken won bipartisan plaudits for promising regular communication and consultation with lawmakers on key foreign policy priorities such as reengaging with Iran on its nuclear program.

“We have to restore Congress’ traditional role as a partner in our foreign policy-making,” Blinken, a longtime foreign policy adviser to Biden, told senators. “In recent years, across administrations of both parties, Congress’ voice in foreign policy has been diluted and diminished. That doesn’t make the executive branch stronger, it makes our country weaker.”

His nomination was advanced out of committee Monday night, 15-3.

[Biden’s foreign policy nominees have long track records]

“We all know Mr. Blinken has impressive credentials,” said incoming Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Bob Menendez, D-N.J., in floor remarks. “But, apart from his extensive experience, he showed, in almost five hours of hearing testimony, that he is thoughtful, willing, able to grapple with the most complex, challenging issues facing our country, and committed to engaging Congress. And he did so on both sides of the aisle.”

Speaking ahead of the Tuesday confirmation vote, Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer said it was critical for the Biden administration to shore up U.S. credibility abroad after four years of former President Donald Trump’s bewildering and contradictory foreign policy actions, which alienated allies while heartening U.S. adversaries such as Russia and North Korea.

“We must reaffirm our commitment to NATO and other alliances throughout the world,” the New York Democrat said. “We must hold Russia accountable for malicious interference in democracies. We must confront China’s political and human rights abuses, and we must work with the family of nations to combat the existential threat of climate change.”

Sen. Rand Paul, an anti-interventionist, spoke against the nomination, noting that Blinken supported the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq and the 2011 air campaign that toppled the Moammar Gadhafi regime in Libya and resulted in a disastrous power vacuum in that country.

Blinken “has been a full-throated advocate of military intervention” for 20 years, the Kentucky Republican said.

Senate Foreign Relations member Christopher S. Murphy, D-Conn., applauded Blinken’s confirmation, saying in a statement: “”Today is a very good day for the future of America’s role abroad. With Tony Blinken leading the State Department, we have an experienced, respected diplomat who will work to repair our alliances and tackle urgent, global challenges like competing with China, preventing the next pandemic, and stopping climate change.”

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