Senate panel approves Sen. Clinton for sec'y of state

(AP) - The Senate Foreign Relations Committee votedoverwhelmingly on Thursday for Hillary Rodham Clinton to become thenext secretary of state, with Democrats predicting her leadershipwould mark a turn from warfare toward diplomacy. The 16-1 approval by the committee paves the way for a fullSenate vote after President-elect Barack Obama takes office on Jan.20. Clinton is not expected to hit any major roadblocks, withRepublicans and Democrats alike praising her acumen on the issues. But concerns about her husband's charitable fundraising overseasremain. Sen. David Vitter of Louisiana, who was among severalRepublicans who raised the issue at her confirmation hearingearlier this week, cast the lone opposing vote. In a statement, Vitter called former President Bill Clinton'sfoundation a "multimillion dollar minefield of conflicts ofinterest." "This could produce explosions at any minute, particularlyconcerning the Middle East where we least need them," Vitter said. Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., said he too remains wary thatcontributions to the Clinton charity could pose a problem. But, headded, he wouldn't stand in the way of her appointment and notedthat Clinton could become one of the nation's best secretaries ofstate to date. Her departure from the Senate has been closely watched becauseit would give New York Gov. David Paterson, a fellow Democrat, thepower to appoint her successor. Caroline Kennedy, the scion of apolitical dynasty, wants the job. Clinton told the panel earlier this week that the U.S. mustelevate the role of foreign policy and diplomacy in handling toughproblems. "America cannot solve the most pressing problems on our own,and the world cannot solve them without America," she said. "Thebest way to advance America's interest in reducing global threatsand seizing global opportunities is to design and implement globalsolutions. This isn't a philosophical point. This is our reality." On Iraq, Clinton said ending the war is a priority. The firststep will be moving troops out of cities by June, in line with anagreement already established between the Bush administration andthe Iraqi government. The agreement calls for all U.S. troops to begone by the end of 2011. Obama has said he believes the withdrawalcan be accomplished more quickly. Her testimony invigorated lawmakers, who said they agree thatold-fashioned diplomacy must make a comeback in a U.S. agendadominated by war. "Our nation needs to put proactively more sandals and sneakerson the ground, in order to prevent having to put boots and bayonetson the ground in the future," said Sen. Christopher Bond, R-Mo. Sen. Richard Lugar of Indiana, the Foreign Relations Committee'stop Republican, has proposed that Bill Clinton's foundation rejectany overseas contributions and take other steps to improvetransparency. Clinton rejected Lugar's ideas, contending that her agreement topublish an annual list of the foundation's donors and alert ethicsofficials to potential conflicts of interest already goes above andbeyond any ethics regulations. Bill Clinton's charity, which financed his presidential libraryin Little Rock, Ark., and efforts in dozens of countries to reducepoverty and treat AIDS, has relied on sizable donations fromforeign governments, including Saudi Arabia. After voting on Clinton's nomination, the Foreign RelationsCommittee heard testimony from Susan Rice, whom Obama has picked asU.N. ambassador. Rice is considered a shoo-in as well.
Click here to watch Sen. Clinton's farewell speech in the Senate