The Cable

Kerry approved by committee; confirmation could come today

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee Tuesday unanimously approved the nomination of Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) to succeed Hillary Clinton as secretary of state.

"John, you know who is the only person happier than you right now? Hillary Clinton," said Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA), as Kerry entered the SFRC committee room just after the voice vote that sent Kerry's nomination on to full Senate consideration.

The Tuesday morning business meeting was chaired by Kerry's presumptive successor as chairman, Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ). Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN) is now the official ranking Republican on the committee. Kerry is still technically the chairman.

Kerry plans to give a farewell floor speech Wednesday. Hill aides say that his formal confirmation could come as early as today and he is expected to be confirmed by a unanimous or near-unanimous vote. His swearing-in ceremony at Foggy Bottom could be as early as Friday, and his first day could come next Monday.

Menendez presented to Kerry a committee resolution commemorating his time as SFRC chairman and listing several of his foreign-policy achievements during his time in the Senate.

"You've had a lightening-speed approval by the committee," Menendez said. "[The resolution] is a lengthy recitation of an incredible career here in the Senate, some tremendous accomplishments on behalf of the nation, and a recognition of how you are going to be an incredible secretary of state."

"I'm honored beyond words," Kerry said. "This committee is a great committee. It has been such a privilege to sit around this table and talk about the important issues of our time."

"This committee is going to be absolutely critical to putting America's best foot forward and helping us hopefully make peace in places where it isn't and advancing our values and principles," he said. "What a privilege it has been to work with you and now to work with you in a different way."

Kerry spoke briefly to reporters in the hallway following the meeting.

"There's so much on the plate that we need to find a way to work together. I hope this is a symbol that people are prepared to do that," he said. "I'm very wistful about [leaving the Senate]; it isn't easy."

UPDATE: The senate confirmed Kerry Tuesday afternoon by a vote of 94-3. Sens. James Inhofe (R-OK), John Cornyn (R-TX), and Ted Cruz (R-TX) voted no. Kerry voted "present."

Saul Loeb / Getty Images

The Cable

White House musical chairs continue

President Barack Obama elevated Deputy National Security Advisor Denis McDonough to be White House chief of staff today, but also appointed several other officials to new positions throughout the White House.

"I have been counting on Denis for nearly a decade, since I first came to Washington, when he helped set up my Senate office, along with Pete Rouse.... He, you know, was able to show me where the restrooms were and, you know, how you passed a bill," Obama said, standing alongside McDonough and Jack Lew, who has been nominated to be the next Treasury secretary.

"I should point out that even then, Denis had gray hair," Obama said. "I've been trying to catch up to him. But at that time, I relied on his intellect and his good judgment, and that has continued ever since. He's been one of my closest and most trusted advisers on my presidential campaign, on my transition team.  He has been an indispensable member of my national security team as well.... The truth is nobody outworks Denis McDonough."

McDonough, originally from Stillwater, MN, was mentored by Lee Hamilton and Tom Daschle, and has played a key role in a host of both foreign policy and national security issues, Obama said. Some things will change, though. He "will probably have to stop riding his bike to work," Obama said. "As chief of staff, I don't think that's allowed."

"Denis, you're not just one of my closest friends, but you're also one of my closest advisers. And like everybody here, I cannot imagine the White House without you," said Obama.

Senior advisor David Plouffe is also leaving the White House, effective this week, Obama announced. The White House also put out a press release announcing several new staffing decisions.

As The Cable previously reported, Antony Blinken, the top national security advisor to Vice President Joe Biden, will replace McDonough as deputy national security advisor under Tom Donilon. Rob Nabors has been elevated to deputy White House chief of staff for policy. Miguel Rodriguez will replace Nabors as White House director of legislative affairs. Assistant Attorney General Lisa Monaco is the new deputy national security advisor for homeland security and counterterrorism, replacing John Brennan, who has been nominated to be CIA director.

Dan Pfeiffer has the new title of senior advisor and is no longer White House communications director. That title now belongs to Jennifer Palmieri, who will be working with the new deputy senior advisor for communications and strategy David Simas. Danielle Gray is the new assistant to the president and cabinet secretary, and Katy Kale is the new assistant to the president for management and administration.

"The challenges we face as a country, from rebuilding middle class security to strengthening our national security are complicated, and require thoughtful, comprehensive solutions. That's why I am proud to announce a team with the deep expertise necessary to move our country forward," Obama said in the release. "From growing the economy and shrinking our deficits, to keeping our country safe and addressing the dangers of climate change, these are people who will not rest until we get the job done. Led by Denis, this team is an extraordinary group of talented individuals with whom I will be honored to work."

Alex Wong / Getty Images