The Senate approved one of its own to become President Obama’s second secretary of State in a near-unanimous vote on Tuesday.
Sen. John KerryJohn KerryEquilibrium/Sustainability — Presented by Southern Company — Storms a growing danger for East Coast Israel, Jordan, UAE sign pivotal deal to swap solar energy, desalinated water GOP seeks oversight hearing with Kerry on climate diplomacy MORE (D-Mass.) sailed through the chamber on a 94-3 vote, with Sen. James InhofeJames (Jim) Mountain InhofeOvernight Defense & National Security — Presented by Boeing — Pentagon vows more airstrike transparency Senate GOP threatens to block defense bill Outcry grows over Russian missile test that hit satellite MORE (R-Okla.) joining Texas Sens. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzGOP holds on Biden nominees set back gains for women in top positions Advocates see pilot program to address inequalities from highways as crucial first step Ted Cruz ribs Newsom over vacation in Mexico: 'Cancun is much nicer than Cabo' MORE (R) and John CornynJohn CornynMental health: The power of connecting requires the power of investing Senators call for Smithsonian Latino, women's museums to be built on National Mall Cornyn says he 'would be surprised' if GOP tries to unseat Sinema in 2024 MORE (R) in casting the only “no” votes. Kerry’s approval to replace Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonRepublicans seem set to win the midterms — unless they defeat themselves Poll: Democracy is under attack, and more violence may be the future Popping the progressive bubble MORE was a foregone conclusion after Republicans urged Obama to nominate him in lieu of his ambassador to the United Nations, Susan Rice.
“I don’t know too many people who have oriented their whole life to be better suited for secretary of State,” Sen. Bob CorkerRobert (Bob) Phillips CorkerCheney set to be face of anti-Trump GOP How leaving Afghanistan cancels our post-9/11 use of force The unflappable Liz Cheney: Why Trump Republicans have struggled to crush her MORE (Tenn.), the top Republican on Kerry’s Foreign Relations Committee, said on the Senate floor ahead of the vote.
Sen. Robert MenendezRobert (Bob) MenendezSpending bill faces Senate scramble Republicans raise concerns over Biden's nominee for ambassador to Germany Biden sets off high-stakes scramble over spending framework MORE (D-N.J.), who will be replacing Kerry atop the committee, echoed those sentiments.
“I can think of no one better to take on the challenges of this position,” he said. “John has already built strong relationships across the world. … He will need no introduction to the world’s political leaders.”
The Senate vote capped a whirlwind day for Kerry, whose nomination was approved by his committee in a unanimous voice vote a few hours earlier. Kerry’s colleagues on the Foreign Relations Committee, which he’s chaired since Joe BidenJoe BidenSouth Africa health minister calls travel bans over new COVID variant 'unjustified' Biden attends tree lighting ceremony after day out in Nantucket Senior US diplomat visiting Southeast Asia to 'reaffirm' relations MORE became vice president four years ago, gave him a standing ovation and a committee resolution honoring his service as chairman.
The resolution “commends the long and distinguished service of John F. Kerry, whose exceptional skill as a lawmaker is matched only by his commitment to an America that is, in President John F. Kennedy’s phrase, not ‘first but, first when, first if, but first period’; and extends its best wishes for his continuing service to the Nation.”
The rare show of bipartisan support will not extend to the rest of Obama’s second-term national-security picks, however. Six Republicans — including the three who voted against Kerry — have vowed to oppose former Sen. Chuck HagelCharles (Chuck) Timothy HagelInterpreter who helped rescue Biden in 2008 escapes Afghanistan Overnight Defense & National Security — Pentagon chiefs to Congress: Don't default Pentagon chiefs say debt default could risk national security MORE (R-Neb.) for secretary of Defense. Members of both parties have raised questions regarding the choice of John Brennan to take over the CIA because of concerns over his record on drone strikes as Obama’s top counterterrorism adviser.
Tuesday’s vote opens up the Kerry seat for Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick, a Democrat, to appoint an interim senator on Wednesday.
Patrick’s former chief of staff, William “Mo” Cowan, and Victoria Kennedy, widow of Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.), are considered front-runners for the pick.
Patrick has set the special-election primary date for April 30, and the general election for June 25.
Rep. Edward MarkeyEd MarkeyEquilibrium/Sustainability — Presented by Southern Company — Pledged money not going to Indigenous causes Senate Democrats call on Biden to push for COVID-19 vaccine patent waivers at WTO The Hill's Morning Report - Ins and outs: Powell renominated at Fed, Parnell drops Senate bid MORE (D) is running for the seat and Rep. Stephen Lynch (D) is widely rumored to be considering a bid, setting Democrats up for an unwanted primary race. And while no Republican has yet announced his or her intention to run for the seat, former Sen. Scott Brown is also expected to try to return to the Senate after losing to Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenPoll: Harris, Michelle Obama lead for 2024 if Biden doesn't run Biden eyes new path for Fed despite Powell pick Equilibrium/Sustainability — Presented by Southern Company — Storms a growing danger for East Coast MORE (D) in November.
Kerry, who turns 70 this year, was first elected to the Senate in 1985 after coming to national attention for protesting the Vietnam War as a decorated veteran and serving as a district attorney and lieutenant governor in Massachusetts. He was the Democratic nominee for president in 2004, ultimately losing to George W. Bush.
Kerry is the son of a U.S. diplomat and has long been eyeing the secretary of State job. He was not Obama’s first choice for the post but was nominated after Rice withdrew from consideration amid withering Republican criticism for having initially linked the Sept. 11, 2012, attack on the U.S. mission in Benghazi, Libya, to a protest gone awry. Her comments were based on talking points provided by the intelligence community.
Kerry will deliver his farewell address to the Senate on Wednesday. He’s expected to be sworn in at the State Department on Friday, Hillary Clinton’s last day on the job, and begin his tenure Monday.
Ramsey Cox and Alexandra Jaffe contributed to this report.