- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 15, 2009

UPDATED:

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee voted overwhelmingly on Thursday for Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton to become the next secretary of state, with Democrats predicting her leadership would mark a turn from warfare toward diplomacy.

The 16-1 approval by the committee paves the way for a full Senate vote after President-elect Barack Obama takes office on Jan. 20. Mrs. Clinton is not expected to hit any major roadblocks, with Republicans and Democrats alike praising her acumen on the issues.

But concerns about her husband’s charitable fund raising overseas remain. Sen. David Vitter, Louisiana Republican, who was among several from his party to raise the issue at her confirmation hearing earlier this week, cast the lone opposing vote.

In a statement, Mr. Vitter called former President Clinton’s foundation a “multimillion dollar minefield of conflicts of interest.”

“This could produce explosions at any minute, particularly concerning the Middle East where we least need them,” Mr. Vitter said.

Sen. Jim DeMint, South Carolina Republican, said he, too, remains wary that contributions to the Clinton charity could pose a problem. But, he added, he wouldn’t stand in the way of her appointment and noted that Mrs. Clinton could become one of the nation’s best secretaries of state to date.

Her departure from the Senate has been closely watched because it would give New York Gov. David Paterson, a fellow Democrat, the power to appoint her successor. Caroline Kennedy, the scion of the political dynasty, wants the job.

Mrs. Clinton told the panel earlier this week that the United States must elevate the role of foreign policy and diplomacy in handling tough problems.

“America cannot solve the most pressing problems on our own, and the world cannot solve them without America,” she said. “The best way to advance America’s interest in reducing global threats and seizing global opportunities is to design and implement global solutions. This isn’t a philosophical point. This is our reality.”

On Iraq, Mrs. Clinton said that ending the war is a priority. The first step will be moving troops out of cities by June, in line with an agreement already established between the Bush administration and the Iraqi government. The agreement calls for all U.S. troops to be gone by the end of 2011. Mr. Obama has said he believes the withdrawal can be accomplished more quickly.

Mrs. Clinton’s testimony invigorated lawmakers, who said they agree that old-fashioned diplomacy must make a comeback in a U.S. agenda dominated by war.

“Our nation needs to put proactively more sandals and sneakers on the ground in order to prevent having to put boots and bayonets on the ground in the future,” said Sen. Christopher Bond, Missouri Republican.

Sen. Richard Lugar, Indiana Republican and the ranking minority member of the Foreign Relations Committee, has proposed that Mr. Clinton’s foundation reject any overseas contributions and take other steps to improve transparency.

Mrs. Clinton rejected Mr. Lugar’s ideas, contending that her agreement to publish an annual list of the foundation’s donors and alert ethics officials to potential conflicts of interest already goes above and beyond any ethics regulations.

Mr. Clinton’s charity, which financed his presidential library in Little Rock, Ark., and efforts in dozens of countries to reduce poverty and treat AIDS, has relied on sizable donations from foreign governments, including Saudi Arabia.

After voting on Mrs. Clinton’s nomination, the Foreign Relations Committee heard testimony from Susan Rice, whom Mr. Obama has picked as U.N. ambassador. Ms. Rice is considered a shoo-in as well.


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