The Senate Foreign Relations Committee held a confirmation hearing on Thursday for Sen. John Kerry to serve as secretary of state.
The hearing comes just a day after the committee grilled departing Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on the attack on the US consulate in Benghazi on September 11 of last year.
Sen. Robert Menendez, a Democrat, gave Kerry a glowing introduction, saying he was sure Kerry would pass any test the position could throw at him. Republican Sen. Bob Corker said, "My sense is your confirmation will go through very, very quickly."
Clinton was present at the hearing, nodding while Corker described the changes the State Department will need to undergo in the aftermath of the attack in Benghazi.
Clinton, Sen. John McCain and newly elected Sen. Elizabeth Warren introduced Kerry.
Warren, Kerry's junior senator from Massachusetts, highlighted Kerry's diplomatic abilities, talking about how he negotiated politics in the Northeastern state. She talked about his foreign policy experience while serving in the Senate, including working on negotiations in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
"John says, 'American isn't exceptional because we say we are. We are exceptional because we do exceptional things,'" Warren said.
Clinton said, "John is the right choice," to carry out the Obama administration's foreign policy goals, calling for a swift confirmation. "He is committed to doing whatever it takes to prevent another attack," she said, referring to Benghazi.
"He is a determined and effective representative of the United States," said Clinton.
McCain focused on Kerry's personal qualities, saying that while they had their political differences, McCain respected Kerry. He relayed an anecdote, focusing on both their pasts as Vietnam veterans and politicians and highlighting Kerry's leadership of the select committee on POW/MIA affairs in the 1990s.
"Suddenly I'm feeling a lot of sympathy for the folks who sit down here," Kerry joked when he took his seat in front of the committee.
"I can pledge to you that as a veteran of war I will always carry in my mind the consequences" of war, said Kerry.
He also called for a swift solution to the fiscal crisis affecting the US, saying that it weakened America's standing in the world. "We can't be strong in the world if we're not strong at home," he said.
"No nation is as committed to the cause of human rights as we are," Kerry said.
"American foreign policy is not defined by drones and deployments alone," he said. American foreign policy is also defined by leadership in food aid, humanitarian aid, energy security and climate change, he continued. "America lives up to its values when we give voice to the voiceless."
On Iran's nuclear program, Kerry said, "Our policy is not containment; it is prevention."
"Today's world is more complicated than anything we have experienced."
Kerry choked up a bit when talking about his father, who was a foreign service officer.
A protester interrupted Kerry's testimony as he was finishing up. Kerry, appearing calm, said, "I respect the woman who was voicing her concerns about that part of the world," after she was led out by security.
The Washington Post has a full transcript of Kerry's prepared remarks.
When the hearing turned to the questions portion, Kerry stressed the importance of addressing Iran's nuclear ambitions. "They have continually professed the peacefulness of their program," he said, according to the Guardian. "It takes intrusive inspections... everybody understands what they are."
Kerry said a more rapid handover of leadership to Afghan forces was possible. "Our troops in the near term, sometime this year, will not be in the lead," he said. The current deadline for US withdrawal from Afghanistan is set for 2014.
"There will be a counterterrorism mission that will continue... beyond 2014," Kerry said, according to the Guardian.
Kerry said he approved of President Obama's handling of the situation in Libya. It "was smart... I think the American people approved of the way that was handled."
Republican Sen. Ron Johnson, who angered Clinton yesterday with his line of questioning on Benghazi, referred to the incident while asking his question: "Yesterday when I was asking what I thought was a simple question... Secretary Clinton's reaction was, and I quote, 'What difference at this point does it make?'"
Clinton, yesterday, said angrily, "With all due respect, the fact is we had four dead Americans. Was it because of a protest or because of guys out for a walk one night [who] decided to go kill some Americans? At this point what difference does it make senator?"
"I think it makes a big difference," Johnson said today. "I think it matters a great deal that the American people get the truth." He continued, "My question is, do you agree with that point? Are you willing to work with me?"
Kerry responded, "Senator, if you're trying to get some daylight between me and secretary Clinton, you're not going to. I think you're talking past each other."
The Associated Press predicted that Kerry would likely face friendly questioning, since he has served on the committee for the past 28 years and led it for the past four.
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