US Senate confirms Clinton as Secretary of State

Thursday, January 22, 2009

The United States Senate has, in a 94–2 vote yesterday, approved Hillary Clinton as the next United States Secretary of State. She is now the 67th person to hold that position and succeeds Condoleezza Rice.

Hillary Clinton takes the oath of office.

During the Senate debate, the issue of the foundation of Hillary's husband, former President Bill Clinton, was again raised, as it was during the hearing held by the United States Senate Committee on Foreign Relations. Some politicians have expressed concern that foreign donations to the foundation may create conflicts of interest for Hillary, as the Secretary of State is the country's top diplomat. The foundation employs Bill Clinton as its head.

"I intend to vote for her confirmation. But I also think it's important to flesh out the concerns raised," Senator John Cornyn said. "If we are going to restore trust between the American people and their government, we need to be sure the reality matches the rhetoric."

The William J. Clinton Foundation has received over US$500 million in donations and was forced to make public a list of past and current donors. This was formalized in a memorandum of understanding with the Obama transition team. According to this document, the foundation agrees to submit future foreign donations to a State Department ethics review.

"I trust Hillary Clinton's good judgement," Senator Arlen Specter said. "I think she will work through these issues."

"The message that the American people are sending us now is they want us to work together and get to work," Senator and former presidential candidate John McCain said.

Have the Clintons done enough to prevent foreign powers having an undue influence on the government?

"This is not the moment to delay American engagement in ongoing crises," Senator John Kerry, another former presidential candidate, said. "While we might wish for a stronger review and disclosure process, the simple truth is that we need a secretary of state in place to implement the president’s agenda."

After the vote, Hillary Clinton was sworn into office at 5:29 pm local time (2229 UTC). Shortly thereafter, she resigned her seat as Senator. New York Governor David Paterson will appoint her replacement.

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee made further progress on the new administration's diplomatic nominees yesterday: it recommended Susan Rice as the Ambassador to the United Nations.