Senate confirms new State Department No. 2The State Department has a new No. 2, as the Senate on Tuesday evening voted to approve Antony Blinken’s nomination as a deputy secretary, despite significant Republican opposition.
The mostly party line vote of 55 to 38 came as Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid continues to push through a last-minute round of votes before ceding control of the chamber to Republicans early next month.
Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee, the senior Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and fellow panel member Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona were the lone Republicans to vote for Blinken. No Democrats opposed his nomination.
Blinken has been President Obama’s deputy national security adviser for almost two years. Vice President Joe Biden said Blinken was instrumental in helping craft the administration’s Iraq policy, referring to him as the “go-to guy” on the subject.
Before coming to the White House, Blinken was a Democratic staffer for the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
Obama, who nominated him last month for the State Department post, said Blinken had a “rare combination of deep policy expertise, impeccable judgment and an inclusive leadership style.”
But Republicans said Blinken doesn’t have the credentials needed to serve as the State Department’s No. 2 official. And since they’ve been highly critical of the administration’s Iraq policy, they aren’t thrilled with the prospect of him serving in a senior State Department role.
Sen. John McCain went to the Senate floor Tuesday to call Blinken “unqualified” and “one of the worst selections of a very bad lot this president has chosen” for senior-level administration posts.
The Arizona Republican added that Blinken, who has served as Biden’s foreign policy adviser, “has been a functionary and an agent of a U.S. foreign policy that has made the world much less safe.
“Mr. Biden has been wrong on every national security issue over the past decade,” he said.
But Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Menendez, D-N.J., said Blinken deserves respect, calling him a “qualified and distinguished public servant” and a “foreign policy expert.”
The chamber this week also approved long-stalled presidential nominations for surgeon general and for the top post at the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency.
Senate leaders are expected to wrap up the year’s legislative business this week, possibly as early as late Tuesday.