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Senate Confirms Clinton as Secretary of State


Updated: The Senate has just confirmed Hillary Rodham Clinton as secretary of state this afternoon by a vote of 94-2.

The two who opposed her nomination were Republican Senators Jim DeMint of South Carolina and David Vitter of Louisiana.

The vote tally fell a little short what with all the changes today. For one, Senator Clinton didn’t vote for herself. Minnesota is still missing one of its senators. Ken Salazar’s replacement has yet to be sworn in for Colorado. And Senator Ted Kennedy isn’t here due to illness.

Earlier today:
While it’s highly likely by the end of this afternoon that Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton will be confirmed as secretary of state in the Obama administration, that outcome hasn’t foreclosed discussions about how to curb any potential conflicts of interest — or appearance thereof — between the overseas reach of her next posting and that of her husband’s global foundation.

Even Senator John Kerry, Democratic chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, said today on the floor that he too would have preferred that donations to former President Clinton’s foundation be disclosed more quickly than the agreement that had been reached with the incoming Obama administration for annual release of a list of contributors.

But he urged swift confirmation, citing the fact that on the very first full business day of the new administration, President Barack Obama would hold a National Security Council meeting that might not include the secretary of state. His committee passed herconfirmation to the floor last week by a vote of 16 to 1.

Senator John Cornyn, the head of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, had stalled Senator Clinton’s confirmation, citing concerns raised about donors, especially foreign contributors, to the foundation that could pose potential conflicts for Mrs. Clinton.

So three hours of debate were reserved on the matter for this afternoon.

While Mr. Cornyn said today that he planned to vote in favor of confirming her, he said he and others wished to promote fuller, more immediate disclosures of any contributions to Mr. Clinton’s foundation than the annual schedule agreed to earlier.

He said that he had spoken with Senator Clinton yesterday, and that she told him she would be willing to comply with fuller “transparency” if it were a broad requirement that would apply to more than just she and her husband. And Senator Cornyn added that he would be willing to introduce legislation along those lines at a later date.

(As all have noted, the high-level positions held by Mrs. Clinton and her husband, a former president, have posed unusual and unprecedented situations and issues. Under a memorandum of understanding reached between the Obama transition team and Mr. Clinton, any pledges of donations by foreign donors or foreign governments will be reviewed by ethics officials within the state department, as well. But some senators, including the ranking Republican, Senator Dick Lugar, had sought additional measures including immediate or quick disclosure of any such pledge.)

Just before a recess a few minutes ago so that senators could attend their policy luncheons, Senator John McCain, whose failed presidential bid resulted in his return to the Senate, tried to cut off the hours of debate and move quickly toward Senator Clinton’s confirmation. He argued that she must begin work on the world’s problems — the United States is fighting two wars, the fragile ceasefire over Gaza, a deteriorating situation with North Korea.

And then Mr. McCain, with the heft that only he could offer given his unusual situation, invoked yesterday’s inaugural wonderment. “We had an election and we also had a remarkable and historical time yesterday and this nation has come together as it has not for some time,” he said, noting the high popularity ratings of President Barack Obama. “The message the American people are sending us right now is they want us to work together and get to work right now.”

But the debate will continue after their recess. Senator Kerry said that as much as he would have liked to agree to Mr. McCain’s request to simply do a voice vote and move on, he found himself in the unusual position of protecting the right under Senate rules of Mr. McCain’s fellow Republicans who still wanted to appear on the floor for debate.

They’ll take the matter up again after 2:15 upon their return.

In addition, the Senate accepted the resignation of Ken Salazar, Democrat of Colorado who was confirmed as Secretary of the Interior yesterday. His replacement, Michael Bennet, the former head of Denver schools, will be sworn in tomorrow.

Update: Republicans on the Judiciary Committee have asked for a week’s delay on the nomination of Eric Holder Jr. for Attorney General, citing additional questions they want to ask, aides said. Earlier today, the Judiciary Committee had been expected to vote on his nomination.

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