Sen. John Kerry (D-MA), President Obama's choice to succeed Hillary Clinton as secretary of state, has begun preparing to testify before the committee he currently chairs, as Democrats on the committee increase their majority ahead of the nominee's confirmation hearings.
For now, Kerry remains the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Clinton is expected to return to the State Department next week following a stomach virus, a concussion, and a blood clot in her brain. Multiple GOP senators have said they won't vote on Kerry's nomination until Clinton is able to fulfill her promise to testify before the committee on the Sept. 11 attack on the U.S. mission in Benghazi.
Clinton's testimony -- and Kerry's confirmation hearing -- aren't likely before Obama's inauguration Jan. 21, because the Senate will be in recess next week and the week after. But in the meantime, Kerry has begun preparing for his testimony by spending time at the State Department receiving briefings, including all day Wednesday. Kerry was also spotted visiting the White House Dec. 28.
"We have a well-practiced procedure for preparing new secretaries for confirmation hearings," State Department Spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said Thursday. "The senator was in the building yesterday. He had a number of meetings with senior staff, has received a huge file of briefing materials. He is not in the building today. My understanding is he's up at the Senate today, but we expect he'll be back in the building on a regular basis starting tomorrow."
Kerry won't be able to preside over his own confirmation hearing, although his current staff will be the ones vetting their once and perhaps future boss. Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) is the next highest-ranking senator on the committee, but most expect Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ) to take over as chairman if and when Kerry is confirmed.
Sen. Jim Webb (D-VA) has retired and Sen. Dick Durbin (R-IL) has departed the committee; in his place there will be two freshman Democrat additions: Sens. Chris Murphy (D-CT) and Tim Kaine (D-VA). Webb proved influential as the chairman of the Asia subcommittee, but his replacement in that post has not yet been decided.
The balance of the SRFC will now be 10 Democrats and 8 Republicans. In the last Congress, the ratio was 10 to 9.
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