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Prepared Remarks of Senator John Kerry (D-MA), Chairman of the Senate Foreign Committee

Location: Washington, DC


SEN. KERRY: Yesterday we swore in a new President with the vigor and the vision to restore America's place in the world. Already, the new Administration is taking crucial, long-awaited steps to embark on a new era of moral leadership and global outreach.

These are extraordinarily challenging times. We are fighting two wars, the threat of terrorism is as strong as ever, and, as the President said, we now labor under the "gathering clouds and raging storms" of the severest economic crisis of our lifetime. At such a momentous moment, it is essential that we provide the President with the tools and resources he needs to effect change-and that starts with putting a national security team in place as soon as possible. That includes confirming Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State.

I think everyone can agree that at her confirmation hearing, Secretary-designate Hillary Clinton demonstrated an impressive grasp of the numerous, complex foreign policy issues we face and showed us all why she will make such a formidable Secretary of State. She has the stature to project America's leadership globally and to help build alliances, at home and abroad, that will be vital to our success in the years ahead.

I understand that concerns have been raised about the fundraising activities of the Clinton Foundation.

Let me start by saying that Secretary-designate Clinton and former President Clinton have voluntarily entered into an ethics review and disclosure process with respect to donations to former President Clinton's foundation that goes well beyond any requirements under the law or applicable ethic regulations.

This is an unprecedented situation, and there is no preexisting blueprint upon which to draw. Secretary-designate Clinton and former President Clinton have gone to considerable lengths to create a new review process tailored to these particular circumstances.

Senator Lugar, myself and others on the Foreign Relations Committee had our own concerns about aspects of this arrangement-and we went through a thorough review of the relevant agreements that Senator Clinton and former President Clinton have entered into. We submitted numerous questions for the record, and examined this issue extensively in the lead-up to Senator Clinton's nomination hearing and at the hearing itself.

Here's the conclusion we reached: whatever concerns some in this body may have do not rise to the level of calling into question Senator Clinton's fitness to serve as Secretary of State.

Senator Lugar-who addressed this issue at length in the hearing and offered a series of smart proposals to improve this process-has made clear that he intends to support Senator Clinton's nomination irrespective of whether she adopts the additional measures that he has suggested. It is noteworthy, in this context, that after a lengthy discussion about review and disclosure, Senator Clinton's nomination passed by a vote of 16-1 out of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee last Thursday.

Context is important. The Clinton Foundation does extraordinary, worthwhile, and life-saving work in areas such as HIV/AIDS, global climate change, and economic development in some of the most impoverished corners of this planet. And it is important to remember that the Clintons do not in any way personally benefit financially from the actions of this foundation.

Moreover, according to Secretary-designate Clinton, all donations to the Clinton Foundation (including donations to the Clinton Global Initiative), will be disclosed publicly. Transparency is critically important because it allows the American people, the media, and those of us here in Congress to judge for ourselves that no conflicts-real or apparent-exist. Senator Clinton was very clear at her hearing and in her answers to questions for the record that she understands well her obligation and her interest in avoiding an unwelcome distraction. I take her at her word.

I understand that Senator Lugar and some others have requested that large donations from foreign entities should be disclosed more frequently than the once-a-year requirement outlined in the agreement. While I agree that this would have been preferable, the bottom line is that the desired deterrent effect still exists.

Furthermore, all contributions by foreign governments will be subject to a review process by the State Department's ethics officials. This review will occur prior to the receipt of any such contributions, and Senator Clinton has made clear that the process has been designed to avoid even the appearance of a conflict of interest.

It is important to note that pledges for future contributions by foreign governments will also be subject to this same ethics review process. That was an issue of particular interest to me and some other members of the Committee, and I appreciate the willingness of Secretary-designate Clinton and the Foundation to address that issue during the discussions over the MOU leading up to the hearing. Again, I and others preferred that these pledges for future contributions were also subject to disclosure requirements. Still, we can take some comfort in the fact that they will be subject to the ethics review process.

So in the end, I respect the questions that have been raised, and acknowledge that the final product was not as strong in some regards as many of us on the Committee would have hoped.

However, I am confident that sufficient checks and balances exist here that this should not call into question whether Senator Clinton should assume these responsibilities and begin serving the country as Secretary of State.

And while the Senate ponders the ethical implications of Senator Clinton's charitable work, the world is moving at a fast pace.

This is not the moment to delay American engagement in ongoing crises. And while we might wish for a stronger review and disclosure process, the simple truth is that we need a Secretary of State in place to implement the President's agenda.

I hope my colleagues will join me in appreciating the larger importance of this moment and put aside valid concerns and vote of a swift confirmation that allows President Obama and his Secretary of State to confront the multiple crises and challenges that will be the measure of our achievement in the years ahead.


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