One question that swirled as Kerry’s name was put forth for secretary was: What happens to his Senate seat? Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick would appoint a temporary senator, and an election to fill the Kerry seat would have to be held later in 2013, probably in June. Sen. Scott Brown, R-Mass., is expected to try to regain the seat he is leaving Jan. 3 – he lost in November to Democrat Elizabeth Warren. Brown had won his seat in a special election in 2010, after Democratic Sen. Edward Kennedy died.
Several prominent Democrats could vie for the seat, including Reps. Edward Markey, Mike Capuano and Stephen Lynch. Actor Ben Affleck also has been mentioned.
Senate reaction to the Kerry nomination was overwhelmingly positive, hardly a surprise for a colleague who’s been serving since 1985. Traditionally, the Senate confirms presidential appointees with strong bipartisan votes. Most senators believe that voters have spoken, elected a president, and therefore he’s entitled to his team.
They often won’t say how they’re voting to confirm prior to hearings, but Friday, they came awfully close.
“We have known John Kerry for many years. We have confidence in John Kerry’s ability to carry out the job,” said Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz. Kerry was the Democrats’ 2004 presidential nominee – and routinely criticized by Republicans – and McCain was the Republicans’ 2008 nominee against Obama, but the two have long been friendly.
Other conservatives had similarly warm words.
“I don’t anticipate any surprises,” said Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., a Foreign Relations Committee member. “Sen. Kerry was a very, very solid choice by the president,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said Kerry was a “popular choice with the Senate.”
Kerry and Republicans clashed at times on policy, most notably over the Iraq war effort. Such disagreements, McCain said, hardly disqualify him.
“My view will not be based on differences of opinion,” he said.
Kerry’s nomination will be considered by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, a panel he has led for the last four years. Likely to chair the panel during confirmation proceedings is Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J.
The top Republican will be Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee, known for his temperate approach. Corker was one of the few Republicans recently who said Rice, the U.N. ambassador who withdrew from consideration, at least deserved a hearing should she be tapped for State.
The hearings are likely to involve the controversy over the U.S. role in protecting Americans at the U.S. consulate and CIA annex in the eastern Libyan city of Benghazi, where Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans died in Sept. 11 attacks. Republicans continued to raise major questions about security Friday, but they did not mention the turmoil when they pivoted and discussed Kerry.
Cynthia P. Schneider, a former U.S. ambassador to the Netherlands who’s now a distinguished professor in the practice of diplomacy at Georgetown University in Washington, said the complex issue of diplomatic security is magnified now because of the Benghazi tragedy, but that it shouldn’t overshadow other pressing U.S. interests.
Schneider said one priority should be trying to craft better policy toward the Arab and North African political transitions, which she said began with aspirations toward U.S.-style democracy and now are continuing with little or no U.S. leverage – a threat to national security as militants and hard-line Islamists drown out the moderate voices.