As expected, John Kerry sailed through his Senate confirmation on Tuesday to succeed Hillary Clinton as U.S. secretary of state, a position that wields immense power over the country’s foreign aid program.
How Kerry is going to wield that power remains to be seen — he has not spoken in detail lately about his vision for development cooperation. During his confirmation hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee a few days ago, Kerry pledged to retain Clinton’s focus on improving the lives of women and girls, and suggested more could be done on procurement reform — a key part of USAID Forward, the U.S. Agency for International Development’s reform agenda. He also suggested that he would not support withholding U.S. funding to U.N. institutions that grant membership to the Palestinian Authority.
Overall, the State Department under Kerry will likely continue its focus on global health and food security, areas that are central to the president’s foreign engagement strategy. How vocal an ambassador for U.S. foreign assistance he will be as he travels the world remains to be seen.
Kerry has a particular interest in combatting climate change, and he may also want to engage more in high-stakes negotiations in the Middle East and South Asia, areas that for much of Clinton’s tenure were led by special advisors appointed by the White House.
By Wednesday morning, no date had been announced yet for Kerry’s swearing-in, but he has notified the governor of Massachusetts that Friday, Feb. 1, would be his last day as senator. A welcoming party at the State Department is reportedly planned for the following Monday. Clinton’s last day at Foggy Bottom was reported to be this Friday, as well.
Tuesday’s vote for Kerry was overwhelming (94-3), following a unanimous recommendation from the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, which he chaired until recently. President Barack Obama was pleased.
“John has earned the respect of leaders around the world and the confidence of Democrats and Republicans in the Senate, and I am confident he will make an extraordinary Secretary of State,” Obama said. “I look forward to his counsel and partnership in the years ahead as we ensure American leadership in the world and advance the interests and values that keep our nation strong.”
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