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Senate Confirms Clinton As Secretary Of State

ROBERT SIEGEL: From NPR News, it's All Things Considered. I'm Robert Siegel. The Senate indulged in some bipartisan boosterism today and overwhelmingly confirmed Hillary Clinton to be President Obama's Secretary of State. No one objected to Clinton's qualifications, but some Republicans had delayed the vote over questions of potential conflicts of interest posed by former President Bill Clinton's charitable foundation. NPR's David Welna watched today's proceedings and he sent us this report.

DAVID WELNA: There never was any doubt Senator Clinton would be confirmed by her colleagues as the nation's chief diplomat, but Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry made clear on the Senate floor, he would prefer having had Clinton among the cabinet members as Senate approved by acclamation yesterday.

SIEGEL: We're a day overdue and we're ready to proceed.

WELNA: Texas Republican John Cornyn was not ready to proceed though, not until the senate held a three-hour debate followed by a roll call vote on Clinton's nomination. Cornyn's issue was the fundraising restrictions and disclosure statements Clinton had agreed to regarding foreign donations to her husband's foundation. For Cornyn, they simply fell short of what was really needed. He said he would vote for Clinton's confirmation.

SIEGEL: But we should not let our respect for Senator Clinton or your admiration for the many good works of the Clinton Foundation blind us to the danger of perceived conflicts of interest caused by the solicitation of hundreds of millions of dollars from foreign and some domestic sources. The perception in reality must be that the Office of the Secretary of the State is viewed around the world as beyond reproach.

WELNA: Just two senators, both of them Republicans, voted against confirming Clinton. One was Louisiana's David Vitter, the other was South Carolina's Jim DeMint, who too, had problems with Bill Clinton's donors.

SIEGEL: I believe this problem can be very easily fixed. If the foundation agrees to refuse all foreign donations and fully disclose all contributions online immediately as long as Senator Clinton is Secretary of State. Today, Senator Clinton has not agreed to do this.

WELNA: DeMint had raised objections during Senator Clinton's confirmation hearings to the Clinton Foundation's promise to annually disclose its donors. So too, had the top Republican on the panel Richard Lugar, even Chairman Kerry acknowledged today that he shared their concerns about the disclosure arrangements.

SIEGEL: I understand that Senator Lugar and some others have requested that large donations from foreign entities ought to be disclosed more frequently than the once-a-year requirement outlined in the agreement. I happen to agree that that would have been preferable.

WELNA: But Senator Clinton has many allies on both sides of the aisle and today some leading Republicans rush to her defense. Here is South Carolina's Lindsey Graham downplaying the need for new disclosure requirements.

SIEGEL: Any concerns about conflict of interest, there will be a process in the future if that happens to be a concern to go through the committee. I have a lot of confidence in the committee to provide oversight.

WELNA: Clinton's strongest endorsement came from another colleague who like her once had hopes of becoming president yesterday. It was Arizona Republican John McCain.

SIEGEL: I, like all good politicians, pay attention to the president's approval ratings are very high but more importantly, I think the message that the American people are sending us now is they want us to work together and get to work. I think we ought to let Senator Clinton who is obviously qualified and obviously will serve - get to work immediately.

WELNA: Majority Leader, Harry Reid was quick to praise McCain's mega-endorsement.

SIEGEL: I want to spread on the record my appreciation for John McCain coming before and saying, let's just approve her.

WELNA: In the end, the vote to confirm Clinton as Secretary of State was 94-2. A judiciary committee vote on the nomination of Eric Holder to be Attorney General that was to have taken place today was instead, held over until next week at the request of committee Republicans. David Welna, NPR News, the Capitol. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

David Welna is NPR's national security correspondent.