01.24.13

Statement Of Senator Patrick Leahy On The Nomination Of Senator John Kerry To Be Secretary Of State

Remarks As Prepared For Delivery

MR. LEAHY.  Mr. President, I commend President Obama for nominating Senator Kerry to be our next Secretary of State.  There are few, if any, people in America today who have had the breadth of experience that Senator Kerry has had – as a military officer, as a Lieutenant Governor, as a U.S. Senator, and as the chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee.  

He is exceptionally well qualified to be the next Secretary of State.

John Kerry is a leader of extraordinary intellect, wisdom and insight.  To those of us who have watched him over the years, it is crystal clear that he is a natural diplomat.  He lives and breathes the art of diplomacy, and he is instinctively drawn to understanding and addressing the global security challenges of our time. 

This is not someone who needs on-the-job training.  He has been learning the job over the course of four decades of public service. 

As chairman of the Appropriations Subcommittee on the Department of State and Foreign Operations, I look forward to working closely with Senator Kerry in his new position to provide the resources necessary to promote and protect U.S. interests around the world. 

It is a formidable assignment.  We face daunting threats, from religious extremism and nuclear proliferation, to climate change and growing competition for energy, water, and other natural resources, and all amid the obligations of deficit and debt reduction.  

But these same threats and challenges present opportunities, if we approach them intelligently.   

Some in Congress today would have us retreat.  They would slash our contributions to the United Nations, weakening our ability to build alliances and emboldening our adversaries.   

They would cut the State Department’s budget at a time when our diplomats and consular officers, many of whom work long hours in dangerous places, already are stretched to the limit – and then criticize, and politicize – when tragedies happen. 

We saw that yesterday, when members of the other body criticized Secretary Clinton for lapses in diplomatic security, only a week after they prevented passage of my amendment that would have allowed for the transfer of unused State Department funds to improve security at U.S. embassies around the world.  It is time to end the hypocrisy around here.

Some here want to roll back funding for international development programs, which help to create political stability in conflict prone regions and build markets for U.S. exports, on the grounds that these funds would be better spent at home. 

In fact, 99 percent of the Federal budget is spent on domestic programs.  The notion that we are an island, and that we can ignore what is happening in the world around us, is foolhardy, and it is dangerous. 

John Kerry understands this.  As chairman of the Appropriations Subcommittee on the Department of State and Foreign Operations, I would note that appropriations begin with Congress.  In times of close scrutiny of all aspects of the Federal budget and fierce competition for funds among Federal agencies, I intend to work with him to make the case here for the State Department not once, not twice, but repeatedly. 

We need to convince Congress and the American people why this budget is important.  As Secretary of State, you can have the best policies and the best plans to implement them, but if you do not have the resources and the people to do so, you will not get very far. 

Mr. President, Secretary of State Clinton has done an outstanding job.  We owe her a debt of gratitude for her steady hand and tireless energy as Secretary of State.   She has done extraordinary work in helping to reintroduce America to the world after the missteps following 9/11 that caused so much damage to our authority abroad.  

Her successor has a particularly hard act to follow.  But the Congress, the American people, and the world are fortunate to have a nominee for this position as qualified as Senator Kerry.

 

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