President Barack Obama's choice to be secretary of state, Sen. John Kerry, D- Mass, began his confirmation hearing Thursday morning before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, one day after the same committee conducted a sometimes fractious hearing with current Secretary of State Hillary Clinton over last September's attack on the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya.
Unlike Wednesdays sometimes-contentious hearings, Republicans welcomed Kerry, who is currently the chairman of the same committee, warmly at the outset. Sen. John McCain R-Ariz. joined Clinton and Sen. Elizabeth Warren D-Mass. in introducing the nominee. "Should he be confirmed, and I'm confident he will be, and become our next Secretary of State, I'm sure we'll have our disagreements, which I know neither of us will hesitate to bring to the other's attention," McCain said. "But I know he will acquit himself in that office with distinction, and use his many talents and his indefatigable persistence to advance our country's interests, and I commend his nomination to you without reservation."
McCain also praised Kerry for "a masterful accomplishment" and "exemplary statesmanship" in his work on an accord to allow opening of normal diplomatic relations with Vietnam in 1995.
Referring to the impasse over reducing budget deficits and the growing national debt, Kerry said in his prepared statement to the committee members that "the first priority of business which will affect my credibility as a diplomat working to help other countries create order, is whether America at last puts its own fiscal house in order."
He called for "an economic patriotism which recognizes that American strength and prospects abroad, depend on American strength and results at home. It is hard to tell the leadership of any number of countries they must get their economic issues resolved if we don't resolve our own."
He did not mention Syria - where more than 60,000 have been killed in a civil war.
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