Obama calls Kerry 'perfect choice' to succeed Clinton

President Obama on Friday nominated Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) to replace Hillary Clinton as secretary of State. 

Obama praised Kerry, a former Democratic presidential nominee, as the "perfect choice to guide American diplomacy in the years ahead," and heralded his service in Vietnam and the U.S. Senate.

"As chairman of the foreign relations committee, John's played a central role in every major foreign policy debate for three decades," Obama said, noting "he is not going to need a lot of on the job training."

Obama added that he had become personal friends with Kerry during their time together in the Senate, and thanked the five-term senator for "advancing so many of my foreign policy priorities" during the president's first four years in office. 

Obama also thanked Kerry for his assistance during the most recent presidential campaign, when Kerry served as Mitt Romney's stand in during mock debates.

"Nothing brings people closer together than weeks of debate prep," Obama said. "John, I'm looking forward to working with you instead of debating you."

The president added that he was "confident that the Senate will confirm" Kerry quickly.

Kerry did not speak at the announcement, and Clinton did not attend. She has been suffering from the flu and a recent conconssion from a fall.

"She could not be more excited about the announcement I'm making," Obama said of Clinton, adding that she "wanted very much to be here today."

In a statement, Clinton described Kerry as a global statesman who would be able to extend America's leadership. 

"John Kerry has been tested – in war, in government, and in diplomacy. Time and again, he has proven his mettle," Clinton said. 

The announcement came after the president and Kerry returned from the National Cathedral in Washington, where they attended the funeral of Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii).

According to the Boston Globe, the president had been holding Kerry's nomination in the hope of announcing him alongside other national-security appointments. But continued issues with nominees for secretary of Defense and director of the CIA led him to proceed.

Kerry's nomination became all but assured last week when United Nations Ambassador Susan Rice withdrew her name from consideration. Rice had drawn scrutiny from Senate Republicans, who suggested she might have deliberately misled the American public when she suggested that the September terrorist attack in Benghazi, Libya, might have stemmed from a protest over an anti-Islam YouTube video.

In a statement Friday, Rice said "America is fortunate" that Kerry had been nominated.

"I have been honored to work with him in the past, and I look forward to working closely with him again on President Obama's national security team," Rice said, praising Kerry's "selfless commitment to our country."

Kerry is a five-term senator and chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee who is well-liked in Washington and thought to have the foreign-policy experience that would help him excel as the nation's top diplomat.

He is also thought to have the trust of Obama. The 2004 Democratic presidential candidate served as the stand-in for Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney during Obama's debate prep sessions, sparring in intense, hours-long simulations with the president.

While Rice would have triggered an epic confirmation battle, Republicans have indicated they would be eager to confirm Kerry, a member of their exclusive club.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) told CNN that Kerry would be a “popular choice with the Senate,” and Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) has repeatedly said that he would prefer to see Kerry nominated for State.

“Our nation faces complex challenges around the world which demand strong American leadership, and the next Secretary of State has big shoes to fill," McCain said Friday after Kerry's nomination. 

"Senator John Kerry has served our nation with honor and distinction for many years. I congratulate him on this nomination, and look forward to considering it as the Senate fulfills its responsibilities to provide advice and consent," McCain said

Other prominent Republicans have voiced support for Kerry as well. Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) told The New York Times that Kerry “would be an excellent appointment and would be easily confirmed by his colleagues,” while Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) said Kerry would have “an easy time” in a confirmation hearing.

ABC News reported last week that  Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick is making plans to fill Kerry’s Senate seat and has already had a discussion with Vicki Kennedy, the widow of former Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.).

This story was posted at 10:33 a.m. and updated at 1:55 p.m.