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Public Statements

Kerry Nomination

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

Mr. LEAHY. Madam President, I want to 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 highly decorated veteran, as a Lieutenant Governor, as a U.S. Senator, and as 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, worked with him, and traveled with him over the years, it is crystal clear that he is a natural diplomat. He lives and breathes the art of diplomacy. He is instinctively drawn to understanding and addressing the global security challenges of our time.

He is also multilingual. I have heard Senator Kerry in meetings in other capitals of the world, and I have watched those who were there pay special attention to what he had to say as he conversed in their language. This is someone who does not need on-the-job training. He has been learning the job over the course of four decades of public service.

I chair the Appropriations Subcommittee on the Department of State and Foreign Operations. In that role, I will look forward to working closely with Senator Kerry in his new position as Secretary of State, 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, nuclear proliferation, climate change, growing competition for energy, water, and other natural resources--all amid the obligations of deficit and debt reduction. But these threats and challenges present opportunities if we approach them intelligently.

Some in Congress have an almost xenophobic attitude. They would have us retreat. They would slash our contribution to the United Nations and weaken our ability to build alliances, which would only embolden 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. Then they criticize and politicize when tragedies happen.

We saw that yesterday, when members of the other body criticized Secretary of State 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. Let's stop the hypocrisy.

Some here would 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.

They miss the point. Ninety-nine percent of the Federal budget is spent on domestic programs. The notion that somehow the wealthiest, most powerful nation on Earth is an island, and that we can ignore what is happening in the world around us is foolhardy, and is dangerous.

John Kerry understands this, and he knows 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, he will need to make his case up here repeatedly, and I will work with him to do that. We have to convince Congress and the American people why the State Department's budget is important. As Secretary of State one can have the best policies and the best plans to implement them. But if you don't have the resources, if you don't have the people to do it, the best plans in the world don't go very far.

Secretary Clinton has done an outstanding job. I have told her that I stand in awe of what she has accomplished throughout the world and within the State Department. We all owe her a debt of gratitude for her steady hand and tireless energy as Secretary of State. I have traveled with her to other countries. I have seen how she approaches problems, always prepared and with such energy. Every American should be proud to be represented by her. She has done an extraordinary job in reintroducing America to the world after the missteps following 9/11 that caused so much damage to our image and authority abroad.

Her successor also has not only a hard act to follow, but he also understands, as we all do, that America must continuously demonstrate to the rest of the world what we stand for as a people.

I believe the Congress and the American people, and I think, in a way, the world, is fortunate to have a nominee for the position as qualified as Senator Kerry. I will enthusiastically vote for him when his name comes before the Senate.

Madam President, seeing no other person seeking recognition, as President pro tempore of this body, I am glad to see you in the role of Presiding Officer. I realize you can't respond to this, but in your first month in the Senate you are actually filling the pivotal role in this body, and I appreciate it.

I suggest the absence of a quorum.

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT


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