Executive Sessionby Senator Benjamin L. Cardin
Posted on 2013-01-29
CARDIN. Madam President, I would like to join with Senator
Menendez and Senator Corker in urging our colleagues to promptly
confirm Senator Kerry as our next Secretary of State.
It is a great honor to serve in the Senate. It is a great privilege and honor to represent the people of Maryland here in the Senate. Part of that special privilege is the people we serve with, the incredible public servants we have had the privilege of serving with in the Senate, and I put Senator Kerry at the top of that list.
He has devoted his life to public service in the finest manner. He is so qualified to assume the responsibilities of Secretary of State. He understands this complex world in which we live and the [[Page S346]] differences among countries. Many are strategically important to the United States. Yet they don't share our values. Senator Kerry understands that and understands the importance to advance U.S. interests--we need to understand the concerns of other countries and we need to establish relations with other countries.
He has made a personal commitment to understand the world in which we live. I do not think there has been a Member of this body who has spent more time, gone to more places, met with more people in order to represent our Nation on the international stage. Senator Kerry has always done that with the greatest degree of competency and representing our country in the finest traditions. He has broad experience: experience as a soldier serving in Vietnam, experience as a Senator, 28 years representing the people of Massachusetts in the Senate. We know about his service on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. I want to talk about two other committees on which he served.
One is the Senate Finance Committee on which I had the pleasure of serving with him. There is no Senator who has taken the fiscal challenges of our country more seriously or understands the impact our fiscal condition has on our national security interests. In fact, during his confirmation hearings he mentioned the need to get our fiscal house in order. I think he understands that and understands the commitment he has, once confirmed and once heading the State Department, to help us bring about fiscal sanity in the United States to do what is necessary worldwide, but also to do it in a most cost effective way.
I also served with Senator Kerry on the Small Business Committee. The small business community did not have a better advocate when Senator Kerry was chairman of that committee. I was pleased how many times we brought out initiatives to help America and small businesses grow because we know the growth engine for jobs has come from small companies. But, clearly, it has been in the last few years that I had the privilege of serving with Senator Kerry as he chaired the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that I got to see so up close and personal his extraordinary commitment to our country and his ability to carry out so many important responsibilities.
Senator Kerry understands our national security, yes, depends upon a strong military, but that also the other key ingredients to national security are diplomacy and development assistance.
We had Secretary Clinton before our committee. Someone mentioned that was about 1.5 percent of the budget, and she corrected it and said it is really less than 1 percent of the budget. Diplomacy and international assistance is less than 1 percent of the budget. We know what we spend on our military is a lot larger than that. All three are important to national security.
Senator Kerry understands that. He understands through diplomacy we can avoid unnecessary military action. He understands through diplomacy we can make America safer. He understands through international development assistance we can strengthen countries, make them more stable, and be less likely to need to use our military. That is the type of leader we need as Secretary of State. We have a great leader today, Secretary Clinton. I think Senator Kerry will follow in that tradition.
Take a look at Senator Kerry's record of advancing America's interests. We have a safer world today through Senator Kerry's efforts. As you know, we approved the New START treaty with Russia, reducing the amount of nuclear weapons between Russia and the United States. That makes this world safer. His record on human rights is well known. From Cambodia to Burma to Kosovo and many other places around the world, Senator Kerry has been a leader in advancing the cause of human rights.
We already heard Senator Menendez point out his efforts in Vietnam. He represented America to get an accounting of our POW/MIAs. It was unprecedented in modern times to be able to go to a country with which we are at war and have that kind of accounting. Senator Kerry used his talent in order to bring closure for many American families, and that was an incredible accomplishment. Then he was able to improve the relationship between the United States and Vietnam, recognizing it is in America's interests that we are able to communicate with other countries.
I particularly appreciate his work on elevating the importance internationally of human trafficking. The United States has taken the leadership in saying, whether you are a receiving country or an origin country or a country of transport, we all have a responsibility to stop what we call modern slavery: the trafficking, usually of young girls, but also sometimes boys. The United States has taken the leadership there.
I like to think Senator Kerry's taking leadership on this started with his position on the Helsinki Commission. He is a former member of the Helsinki Commission. I now have an opportunity of being the Senate chair of the Helsinki Commission. We raised the issue of human trafficking and Senator Kerry was one of the great advocates to advance America's leadership internationally to stop human trafficking. He has protected people with disabilities.
As Senator Menendez mentioned, he has been our leader on energy and climate issues, recognizing the importance of the United States to demonstrate international leadership in order to deal with a global problem, a problem that is important for us to deal with as a citizen of the world but also important for us to deal with in regard to America's economy and America's energy needs and America's security responsibilities. Senator Kerry has been a great leader on that.
He has provided U.S. leadership for humanitarian assistance. I remember the hearings we had in the committee on Haiti and the personal commitment he made to make sure America was in the leadership for a country in our own hemisphere that suffered such a horrible disaster, and his work there was extremely important.
He led our efforts in dealing with HIV/AIDS, in doing the responsible things as far as America's position on that problem. He understands the importance of international development assistance to advance gender equality. It is interesting, if you want to take a look at the health of a country, look at the way they treat their women. We have a pretty strong commitment as far as international development assistance around the world. We need to make sure countries advance the rights of women. It is not only the right thing to do from what we believe as Americans, but it also provides a more stable country for us to have relations with. Senator Kerry understands that.
He has been one of the leaders in fighting corruption in other countries. I will always remember the hearing we had in our committee when former President Clinton and Bill Gates testified before us. These are two individuals who have headed a lot of international development assistance. They have a zero policy in dealing with countries that cannot control corruption because they want to make sure their assistance doesn't go to fuel corruption. Senator Kerry understands we don't want America's international development assistance to be used to fuel corruption. That is the type of leadership we have in the Secretary of State.
The list goes on of what he has been able to do to advance the rights and interests of the United States. I am confident that Senator Kerry's legacy of fighting for democracy, human rights, and global peace will continue as he assumes his new responsibilities as the Secretary of State for the United States of America.
I urge my colleagues to support his nomination.
I thank Chairman Menendez for bringing this nomination to the floor so quickly and thank Senator Corker for accommodating it. It is important that President Obama has his security team in place as quickly as possible. I am proud the Senate will be doing its share, its work by voting on this nomination later today.
I suggest the absence of a quorum.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. The clerk will call the roll.
The legislative clerk proceeded to call the roll.