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Thomas H.
Former Democrat IA
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    Congratulating John Kerry

    by Former Senator Tom Harkin

    Posted on 2013-01-29

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    HARKIN. Madam President, as we say goodbye to Secretary Clinton in her capacity as Secretary of State, we say welcome aboard and congratulations to my good friend Senator John Kerry on the resounding confirmation of his nomination to serve as our next Secretary of State. His departure will be a tremendous loss to the Senate, but I respect President Obama's decision to tap him for this absolutely critical position. There is no one in the United States better qualified by experience, knowledge, and temperament to step into this extraordinarily demanding job.

    To repeat what my colleagues already know, but it always bears repeating, after volunteering to serve in the U.S. Navy during the Vietnam war, John Kerry was awarded the Silver Star, a Bronze Star, and three Purple Hearts. Upon returning home, he became a national leader in the fight for justice for veterans who served beside him in Vietnam as well as for veterans of wars before and since Vietnam. He joined with others to found the Vietnam Veterans of America organization. He has worked hard here in the Senate over all of these years to secure veterans' benefits, for an extension of the GI bill for higher education, and for appropriate treatment for veterans with post- traumatic stress disorder.

    As we all know, Senator Kerry has played a leading role in shaping American foreign policy for many years in his position on the Foreign Relations Committee and as chair of that distinguished committee. As chair of that committee, he was instrumental in securing passage of the New START treaty, a vital arms accord with Russia that is helping to reduce the danger of nuclear proliferation. He has served as a trusted special envoy to Afghanistan, Sudan, and Pakistan at crucial moments. Senator Kerry advocated for democratic elections in the Philippines. He was part of a delegation that uncovered the fraud that ultimately led to the removal of President Ferdinand Marcos. He was a strong proponent of U.S. action to end ethnic cleansing in Kosovo and to oppose sanctions on Burma tied to human rights abuses. Senator Kerry has been a leader in promoting economic development and recovery in Haiti, fighting global HIV/AIDS, supporting democracy and human dignity, poverty assistance, and the advancement of women's empowerment throughout the world.

    In his early days in the Senate, Senator Kerry and I--in fact, we were elected together in 1984; we came to the Senate together. But shortly after that, Senator Kerry and I went on a factfinding mission to Nicaragua and unearthed information regarding the activities of the Contra guerillas, which he presented to the Committee on Foreign Relations. Based in part on his groundbreaking findings, the committee launched an investigation into the funding of the Contra guerillas that ultimately uncovered the Reagan administration's Iran-Contra scandal, a scheme to divert profits from illegal arms sales to Iran to support the Contra guerillas.

    Senator Kerry and I, as I said, were both Members of the class of 1984 here in the Senate. We worked together to end illegal support of the Contras in Nicaragua, and we have collaborated on a range of human rights issues since then.

    In particular, I salute his tireless and valiant attempt last year to pass the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. I can't tell my colleagues how hard he worked to get it through the committee and before that worked with others to make sure we had a good convention to the U.N. that mirrored our own Americans With Disabilities Act. John Kerry worked tirelessly on this, and I am deeply grateful for all that work and the passionate commitment he made to this treaty. I know he shares my disappointment that the Senate failed to give its consent to this treaty, but I look forward to working with him in his new role as Secretary of State and with Senator Menendez, our new chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, not only to promote the convention around the world, which I know Senator Kerry will do in his position as Secretary of State, but to once again bring this convention to the floor of the Senate and this time to prevail and pass it.

    There is no question in my mind that John Kerry will be a great Secretary of State. I wish him and Teresa the very best, and I look forward to working with him in the years ahead.

    Madam President, I yield the floor and note the absence of a quorum.

    The PRESIDING OFFICER. The clerk will call the roll.

    The legislative clerk proceeded to call the roll.

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