Senate confirms Clinton as secretary of state by 94-2

McClatchy NewspapersJanuary 21, 2009 

WASHINGTON — The Senate confirmed Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., to be President Barack Obama's secretary of state by a 94-2 vote Wednesday after nearly a half a day of debate for an outcome that was never really in doubt.

Some Senate Republicans, including several who voted for her confirmation, raised concerns about potential conflicts of interest stemming from the international activities of former President Bill Clinton's William J. Clinton Foundation.

The foundation, which works on HIV/AIDS, climate change and poverty, has accepted more than $131 million from foreign governments, including Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Norway.

Shortly after her nomination, Bill Clinton released a list of donors to his foundation. At the start of her confirmation hearing last week, Hillary Clinton agreed to measures designed to monitor the Clinton Foundation and assure transparency in the foundation's fundraising.

That wasn't enough to satisfy Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas.

"I remain concerned that senator, soon-to-be Secretary of State Clinton's diplomatic work will be encumbered by the global activities of the Clinton Foundation under these circumstances," Cornyn said.

Still, in the end, Cornyn voted for Clinton. Sens. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., and David Vitter, R-La., were the lone "no" votes. Clinton didn't vote, nor did Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., who was still recovering from suffering a seizure on Tuesday.

Sen. George Voinovich, R-Ohio, said that Republicans voiced objections earlier to send a message to Hillary and Bill Clinton.

"She has to know, and so does former President Clinton, that the big light will shine on them forever and ever," he said. "And so, if she doesn't do what she said, it's going to interfere with her ability to be a good secretary of state. And if she doesn't do it, every time she comes up here, she's going to get kicked in the shins."

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., urged his Republican colleagues earlier in the day to drop their objections.

"I pay attention to the president's approval ratings. Very high," McCain said. "But more importantly, I think the message that the American people are sending us now is they want us to work together and get to work. I think we ought to let Senator Clinton, who obviously is qualified, and obviously will serve, to get to work immediately."

Sen. Evan Bayh, D-Ind., said GOP concerns about Clinton's nomination smacked of partisan politics.

"They may be trying to rally their base," said Bayh, who endorsed Clinton in the Democratic primaries. "Bashing Bill and Hillary Clinton is something of a cottage industry for the far right. I believe it's out of step with the times."

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