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Senator Menendez's Opening Remarks at SFRC Hearing on Nomination of Sen. John Kerry as Secretary of State

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Location: Washington, DC

U.S. Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ) is currently presiding over the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Hearing on the nomination of U.S. Senator John Kerry as U.S. Secretary of State. The Senator's opening remarks as delivered are below:

Good morning. Let me again ask as I did yesterday, since the full Senate has not yet passed the Committee resolution -- officially seating members -- I ask unanimous consent of returning members to allow our prospective members to participate in today's hearing. If there is no objection, so ordered.

Senator Kerry -- or should I say, Mr. Chairman -- since you are still our Committee's Chair, that I am deeply humbled to preside over the Committee today as we consider your nomination. We're honored to welcome you as the President's nominee for a position you have most-deservedly earned -- from the first time you testified before Chairman Fulbright as a young, returning Vietnam-War hero in 1971 -- to the day the President announced your nomination as Secretary of State.

You may not be aware of it, but you will be the first member of this panel to ascend directly to that position since Senator John Sherman of Ohio became President McKinley's Secretary of State more than 100 years ago. So, you are clearly making history once again.

Yours is a big chair to fill, and I will do my best today to live up to your example. I have watched you lead the Committee with an equally deep and abiding commitment to getting to the heart of the matter -- always probative, always open to debate, but always ready to mitigate disagreements, always looking for the truth -- for answers -- uncovering the facts, hearing all the evidence, and then publically speaking truth to power based solely on what was best for this nation.

As a Senator, a member of this Committee, and as Chairman -- you have already built strong relationships with leaders around the world which will help you step seamlessly into the role of Secretary of State.

You will need no introduction to the world's political and military leaders, and will begin -- on day-one -- fully conversant not only with the intricacies of U.S. policy, but with an understanding of the nuanced approach necessary to effectively interact on a multinational stage.

When Vice President Biden sat in this chair, he said -- on more than one occasion -- "Good international relationships are always predicated on strong interpersonal relationships." I think we can all agree that you have set the highest standard for developing those relationships throughout your career and, as Secretary of State, you will continue to strengthen those relationships on behalf of the President and the furtherance of American foreign policy.

I will have some questions later on policies and your views, including how you explain to world leaders how you could have been rooting for the Boston Red Sox instead of what the world knows as the New York Yankees as the team of the world, but let me say, Mr. Chairman, it has been a pleasure working with you and I look forward to continuing to work with you on the issues you have championed over the years: fighting global terrorism; preventing the spread of nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons; fighting for human rights and against HIV/AIDS around the world; fighting crime, corruption, and drug trafficking; and standing-up -- as you always have -- for the interests of our Foreign Service around the world.

In your new role -- should you be confirmed, and I know you will -- your portfolio will be greatly expanded and you will be center-stage, representing the interests of all of us, from securing our embassies and protecting our overseas personnel -- to promoting commerce, enhancing cross-cultural ties, and keeping America secure through cooperation where possible and isolation where necessary -- as in the case of Iran.

And, of course, it goes without saying that you have truly been a world leader on one of the most consequential issues of our time: climate change -- and it heartens me to know that someone with your commitment to the issue will be our voice to the world.

The fact is -- whatever the challenges we will face, in my view, the State Department could not be in better hands.

When it comes to America's role in world affairs, I know we agree that it is critical that the United States remain fully engaged; that we project not only the power of our military strength when necessary, but the wisdom of our democratic ideals as we adjust to the new threats and new demands we will inevitably face.

There is no doubt you will be tested in your new role as Secretary, nor is there any doubt that you will pass any test with honors -- as you always have.

Before I recognize Senator Corker, let me thank you, on behalf of the Committee, for all you have done throughout your long and illustrious career.

In anticipation of your confirmation by the full Senate, I wish you good luck and Godspeed on the many journeys that lie ahead. It has been a pleasure working with you in the Senate and I look forward to working with you as you continue serving your country as our next Secretary of State.


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