01.21.09

Statement On Hillary Rodham Clinton's Confirmation As Secretary Of State

MR. LEAHY.  Mr. President, on this first day after the inauguration of President Barack Obama, it is a great pleasure to speak in support of the confirmation of my friend and colleague, Hillary Rodham Clinton, to be our next Secretary of State. 

Secretary-designee Clinton’s stature, intellect and experience make her uniquely qualified to take on this role, which comes at a critical time in the history of our country. 

As Chairman of the Appropriations subcommittee that funds the State Department and our foreign assistance programs, I look forward to working closely with her and President Obama as they embark on the critical task of restoring America’s leadership and image abroad.

Eight years ago, President Bush inherited a balanced Federal budget, the U.S. economy was strong, and the country was at peace. 

He leaves his successor, President Obama, with the largest deficit in our nation’s history, an economic crisis and unemployment rates unlike any this country has experienced since the Great Depression, Osama bin Laden yet to be captured, more than 180,000 U.S. troops fighting wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Middle East peace process in shambles, the country more dependent than ever on foreign oil, and the country’s international reputation badly damaged as a result of policies that were contemptuous of the values on which this Nation was founded.

I do not envy President Obama for the multitude of misguided policies and problems he has inherited, but Secretary of State-designee Clinton will serve him and the country well as they take on these challenges. 

At her confirmation hearing before the Foreign Relations Committee last week, Secretary-designee Clinton discussed the need to use smart power, including “the full range of tools at our disposal – diplomatic, economic, military, political, legal, and cultural – picking the right tool or combination of tools for each situation”.  She understands the complexities of the problems we face and the capabilities the State Department and other Federal departments have – as well as the capabilities they will need – to confront them. 

I am eager to work with Secretary-designee Clinton to help rebuild the diplomatic corps and operational budget of her Department. The Bush Administration was not a strong day-to-day manager of the Department nor an effective advocate for the 267 U.S. embassies and diplomatic posts around the world. 

I also note Secretary-designee Clinton’s support for foreign assistance reform, which I strongly believe should include steps to strengthen the autonomy and capacity of the U.S. Agency for International Development. 

We have learned over the past several years that we cannot take for granted the unwavering allegiance of any country in the world.  We have also learned that the difficult work of building partnerships, improving the capacity of developing countries to better serve their citizens, and ensuring our own country’s security by improving the lot of the disenfranchised, is best accomplished by diplomatic and development professionals.  This is not amateur hour, and I appreciate Secretary-designee Clinton’s recognition of the value and experience of dedicated international affairs public servants and her plans to support and enhance that capacity.  

The change of administrations offers opportunities for major new policy initiatives, and Secretary-designee Clinton will quickly become immersed in the immensely difficult problems that were ignored or badly mishandled by the Bush administration.  The Middle East, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran, Sudan, Mexico, Somalia and central Africa pose particularly vexing challenges which Secretary-designee Clinton will have to confront immediately with all the resources at her disposal.  

In addition, I want to mention two items that are of special concern to me.

Although the Federal law prohibiting U.S. assistance to units of foreign security forces that violate human rights was first enacted a dozen years ago, the State Department is still struggling with its implementation, particularly with regard to the monitoring of military equipment provided to foreign governments.  This law, known as the Leahy Amendment, has been applied unevenly depending on the country, and I urge Secretary-designee Clinton to review the Leahy Amendment to ensure its vigorous and consistent implementation. 

Ten years ago this March the Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on their Destruction came into force.  Today, there are 156 parties to that treaty, but the U.S. is not among them.  The U.S. military has not used the types of anti-personnel landmines prohibited by the treaty since 1991, and has no plan to do so in the future.  I urge Secretary-designee Clinton, working with Secretary of Defense Bob Gates and National Security Advisor Jim Jones, to devise a plan to join the treaty as soon as possible, and by doing so reaffirm U.S. leadership on this critical humanitarian and arms control issue.

Mr. President, like President Obama, Secretary-designee Clinton recognizes the need for strong United States leadership in an increasingly complex, dangerous and inter-dependent world.  She understands that most global and regional problems cannot be solved by the U.S. alone, that we need to act boldly and change the status quo when it no longer serves our interests or reflects our values, strengthen and expand our alliances, help the poorest countries develop effective and accountable institutions, and pursue policies that enhance our image abroad. 

Today, as we leave the troubled policies of the past eight years behind us, the American people should feel fortunate, as I do, that Hillary Rodham Clinton will be our new Secretary of State.

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