Kerry confirmation hearing set for next week

The nomination hearing for Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) to become the next secretary of State has been scheduled for next Thursday, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee announced late Wednesday.

In addition, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will testify before the committee on Wednesday about the Sept. 11 attack in Benghazi, Libya, that killed Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans. Clinton will also testify before the House Foreign Affairs panel that day after missing a hearing planned last month after suffering a concussion.

Kerry, the current chairman of the Senate panel, is expected to sail through his nomination hearing. Republicans are saving their ammunition for Obama's pick to be secretary of Defense, former Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.), whose nomination hearing has been scheduled for Jan. 31.

President Obama's first choice to replace Clinton, Ambassador to the U.N. Susan Rice, took herself out of the running in the wake of intense Republican criticism over her statements linking the Benghazi attack to a protest gone awry. If confirmed, Kerry will be replaced atop the panel by Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), who will preside over both hearings next week.