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Sen. John Kerry on Capitol Hill. / Saul Loeb, AFP/Getty Images

WASHINGTON - The Senate has confirmed Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry as the next secretary of State, where he will replace Hillary Rodham Clinton.

The vote was 94-3.

He could be sworn in as early as Wednesday. A welcoming ceremony is planned at the State Department on Monday.

Voting against Kerry were three Republicans: Sens. Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma, and John Cornyn and Ted Cruz of Texas.

"Sen. Kerry has a long history of liberal positions that are not consistent with a majority of Texans," Cornyn said in a statement.

But the top Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee, called Kerry "a realist" who will deal with unrest in Egypt, civil war in Syria, the threat of al-Qaeda-linked groups in Africa and Iran's pursuit of nuclear weapons.

Kerry, 69, the son of a diplomat, is a five-term senator from Massachusetts and chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. He is a decorated Vietnam War veteran and the unsuccessful 2004 Democratic nominee for president.

The vote came just hours after the Foreign Relations Committee approved his nomination by voice vote with no objection. Kerry has led the committee for the past four years.

Former California congresswoman Jane Harman said Kerry's 28 years of experience in the Senate, his passion and his many contacts among foreign leaders make him an ideal agent for promoting America "as a force for rule of law, the leader of democratic values, economic relations and human rights."

Kerry understands "that is what we have to sell" to the rest of world, Harman said.

Kerry received a Silver Star and three Purple Hearts as a Navy swift-boat commander during the Vietnam War and later rose to prominence as a war protester who testified before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that U.S. actions in Vietnam amounted to war crimes.

Clinton served the past four years as the United States' second female secretary of State, after two terms as senator representing New York state and eight years as first lady.

James Carafano of the Heritage Foundation said treaties that Kerry has promoted in the past smack of "a global governance agenda."

Kerry tried and failed to get the Senate to ratify the Law of the Sea in June, and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in December. He has spoken of pursuing a global warming treaty and said he supports the United Nations Convention to Eliminate All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, which some Republicans have opposed because it says women should have access to family planning and abortions.

Kerry also supports the Comprehensive Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty, which was signed by President Clinton in 1996 but never ratified in the Senate.

Most of the treaties Kerry has championed are not bilateral agreements between two countries but treaties that try to establish "global norms of behavior with mechanisms to manage them," Carafano said.

Such treaties "sound nice, but in reality these treaties wind up being oppressors of freedom," Carafano said. "None of these treaties carry any enforcement mechanisms."

Often, many countries that sign such treaties use them as cover to engage in bad behavior, Carafano said.

Ambassador Karl Inderfurth, a former senior State Department official appointed under President Clinton, also believes Kerry will pursue international treaties that the United States has neither signed nor ratified, and seek support for new agreements.

To knock treaties such as the nuclear test ban treaty as harmful to American sovereignty is a mistake made by people "who don't want any limitations on Americans' ability to act in any way we wish," Inderfurth said.

Establishing international law recognizing human rights and banning poison gas and genocide has served U.S. interests, he said. Such treaties, signed after World War I and World War II, "do not prevent our freedom of action because we would not engage in those actions," he said.

President Clinton in the 1990s did not think the United States needed to engage in more nuclear tests, but the Senate's failure to ratify the Comprehensive Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty made it more difficult to persuade Pakistan and India to sign it, which hampered U.S. efforts to stop the spread of nuclear weapons, Inderfurth said. Both countries have since tested nuclear weapons and developed nuclear arsenals.

As senator, Kerry made a priority of the Law of the Sea Treaty but couldn't get it ratified despite support from some Republicans, Democrats, civilian, business and military leaders, Inderfurth said.

"That's an example of a treaty that the U.S. should be a part of, and it's harmful that we're not," he said.

In shipping conflicts in the South China Sea among China, Japan and the Philippines, "we don't have a leg to stand on to call attention to a treaty we haven't ratified," he said.

Danielle Pletka, vice president for foreign and defense policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute, also thinks Kerry will pursue treaties, though she doubts President Obama will seek to spend much political capital pursuing the 66 senators needed to ratify any.

"Our standing does not derive from treaties," Pletka said. "Our standing comes from our national interests. Good countries don't need treaties, and bad countries don't observe treaties."



Copyright 2014 USATODAY.com

Read the original story: Senate votes to confirm Kerry as secretary of State

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