Continued from page 1

John Kerry has been tested – in war, in government, and in diplomacy. Time and again, he has proven his mettle.”

Mr. Kerry did not speak, demurring to the president as the two left the room as the pool of reporters shouted questions at them about the fiscal cliff.

On the Foreign Relations panel, Sen. Bob Menendez, a Democrat from New Jersey, likely will replace Mr. Kerry as chairman.

Mr. Menendez hailed Mr. Kerry’s nomination, calling him “an extraordinary choice for extraordinary times.”

“He will be an exceptional secretary of state,” he said in a statement. “His life and work have led him to this place, and American will be safer and more secure under his leadership.”

Sen. John McCain, who lost the 2008 election to Mr. Obama and has since become his toughest critic on foreign policy matters, particularly on Benghazi and Ms. Rice’s misleading characterizations of the attack just days after it had occurred, issued a brief reaction to Mr. Kerry’s nomination.

“Our nation faces complex challenges around the world that demand strong American leadership, and the next secretary of state has big shoes to fill,” he said. “Sen. John Kerry has served our nation with honor and distinction for many years. I congratulate him on the nomination, and l look forward to considering it as the Senate fulfills its responsibilities to provide advice and consent.”

Mr. McCain finishes his six-year term serving as the ranking member of the Armed Services Committee this year and will join the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, which is charged with vetting several key national security nominations.

After several weeks of searing criticism from Mr. McCain and other Republicans, late last week Ms. Rice asked the president to withdraw her name after enduring a barrage of criticism about her statements about the Benghazi attack that killed U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three others.

Mr. Oba,a made no mention of the Sept. 11 terrorist attack on the U.S. diplomatic post in Benghazi, Libya, that marred the end of Mrs. Clinton’s tenure, instead giving Mrs. Clinton credit for helping his administration end the war in Iraq, wind down the war in Afghanistan, put “Al Qaeda’s core on the path to defeat” and improve America’s standing in the world.

“I’m looking forward to paying tribute to her service in the days to come,” he said.

Late last week, Ms. Rice asked the president to withdraw her name after enduring a barrage of criticism about her statements about the Benghazi attack that killed U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three others.

At first, Mr. Obama came to his longtime foreign policy adviser’s defense, but last week when the continued drumbeat against her failed to dissipate, Mrs. Rice announced she would not longer seek the post.

In his role as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Mr. Kerry led a hearing on Benghazi Thursday after an independent panel released a report about the lapses in security preceding the attack and blamed the State Department for failing to react to heightened risks.

During the hearing, Mr. Kerry said Congress needs to direct more money to diplomatic resources, although he stressed that embassies should not be turned into fortresses and isolate diplomats from the countries where they’re working.

Story Continues →