- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 20, 2009

The Democrat-dominated Senate on Tuesday unanimously approved the first six members of President Obama’s Cabinet just hours after he was sworn in, but the day was marred by a seizure that struck Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, Massachusetts Democrat, at the traditional Capitol Hill luncheon honoring the new president.

And a key Republican senator’s skepticism Tuesday about approving Hillary Rodham Clinton as secretary of state meant she had to wait at least another day to formally join Mr. Obama’s administration.

In a welcoming present for the new Democratic chief executive, Senate leaders agreed to waive votes and confirm unanimously six of Mr. Obama’s Cabinet choices: physicist Steven Chu as energy secretary; Arne Duncan as secretary of education; Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano as head of the Department of Homeland Security; former Colorado Sen. Ken Salazar as interior secretary; retired Army Gen. Eric K. Shinseki as head of the Department of Veterans Affairs; former Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack as agriculture secretary. It also approved Congressional Budget Office chief Peter R. Orszag to run the Office of Management and Budget.

Lawmakers emerging from the luncheon said Mr. Kennedy, who has brain cancer, suffered a seizure and had to be taken out of the room in a wheelchair. Several lawmakers said he appeared to be doing better when he was taken to Washington Hospital Center.

“I’m not a doctor, but he looked better, like he was going to be OK,” said Sen. Orrin G. Hatch, Utah Republican.

Those at the luncheon said Sen. Robert C. Byrd, West Virginia Democrat, had also been taken out of the luncheon before Mr. Kennedy was stricken. However, the condition of the 91-year-old Mr. Byrd was not thought to be serious.

Regarding Mrs. Clinton’s nomination, Sen. John Cornyn, Texas Republican, said the Senate needed more information about how former President Bill Clinton’s international foundation could affect his wife’s role as the country’s top diplomat.

Mr. Cornyn is one of several Republicans who have raised questions about the business and charitable dealings of Mr. Clinton and his foundation.

“Transparency transcends partisan politics, and the American people deserve to know more,” said Mr. Cornyn.

Mrs. Clinton was endorsed last week by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in a 16-1 vote, and her ultimate confirmation is still considered highly likely. She released a five-page disclosure program to Mr. Obama upon accepting the nomination and has insisted her husband’s business and charitable links will not affect her job.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat, and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican, agreed on Tuesday to a three-hour floor debate Wednesday followed by a vote on Mrs. Clinton’s nomination in the afternoon.

For a brief moment Tuesday, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, held over from the Bush administration, was the only official member of the new Democratic president’s Cabinet before the seven appointees were approved.

In one of his very first official acts as president, Mr. Obama signed the official nominating papers for his Cabinet selections inside the Capitol shortly after being sworn in, joking as he signed that he was left-handed and people should “get used to it.”

Just an hour later, lawmakers and staffers said Mr. Kennedy had what looked to be a “lengthy seizure.”

Sen. Christopher J. Dodd, Connecticut Democrat, said Mr. Kennedy was talking and aware after the seizure, although still in discomfort as he boarded the ambulance. Mr. Kennedy’s wife, Vicki, was with him.

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