A picture of Senator Robert Menendez
Robert M.
Democrat NJ

About Sen. Robert
  • Executive Session

    by Senator Robert Menendez

    Posted on 2013-01-29

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    MENENDEZ. Madam President, I rise to speak to the nomination of Senator Kerry to be the next Secretary of State.

    It has been more than 100 years since a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee was directly nominated to be the Secretary of State. The last was Senator John Sherman of Ohio, who was selected to serve as Secretary of State to President McKinley. It is important to note that this historical fact exists because Senator Kerry's path isn't one commonly taken but one that is earned by a select few, and he has earned this opportunity.

    From the first time John testified before Chairman Fulbright as a young returning Vietnam war hero in 1971 to the day the President announced his nomination as Secretary of State, he has invested himself in all of his endeavors, always looking for the truth, for answers, uncovering the facts, hearing all the evidence, and then publicly speaking truth to power based solely on what was best for this Nation. I know he will carry those leadership traits with him into his new position, and I can think of no one better prepared to take on the challenges of this position.

    As a Senator, as a member of this committee, and as a chairman, John has already built strong relationships with leaders across the world, which will allow him to step seamlessly into the role of Secretary of State. Senator Kerry will need no introduction to the world's political and military leaders and will begin day one fully conversant not only with the intricacies of U.S. foreign policy but with the understanding of the nuanced approach necessary to effectively interact on a multinational stage.

    When Vice President Biden was chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, he said on more than one occasion that ``good international relationships are always predicated on strong interpersonal relationships.'' John Kerry understands there is no substitute for strong interpersonal relationships, whether in Senate politics or international diplomacy. Secretary of State is not a desk job. It requires constant personal interactions in the furtherance of American foreign policy.

    During his 30 years in public life and more than 25 years in the Senate, Senator Kerry has championed many issues. Earlier today the Senate Foreign Relations Committee favorably reported his nomination to the Senate unanimously and presented Senator Kerry with an honorary resolution highlighting a few of his many accomplishments.

    Amongst his accomplishments are the partnership he formed with Senator John McCain that led to an effort to investigate the fate of American soldiers unaccounted for in Vietnam and normalize relations with a former enemy--which is, in essence, Vietnam; his leadership of difficult, sensitive, and comprehensive investigations in the Senate on everything from the Bank of Credit and Commerce International and illegal money laundering, to the Noriega regime in Panama which is well known; advocating for democratic elections in the Philippines and serving with Senator Lugar as part of a Senate delegation that uncovered the fraud that led to the ouster of President Ferdinand Marcos; working with the Cambodian Government and the United Nations to facilitate the creation of the genocide tribunal in Cambodia to prosecute key members of the Khmer Rouge; advocating for programs that help secure nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons stockpiles and materials so they don't fall into the hands of hostile states or terrorists; and leading the Senate to provide its advice and consent to ratification of the New START treaty with Russia.

    During the Arab spring, Senator Kerry supported a no-fly zone over Libya, which helped to save thousands of civilians from being massacred, and he was a voice of courage and conscience in calling for President Hosni Mubarak to step aside and begin an orderly and peaceful transition to a democratic political system in Egypt.

    John has been a tireless advocate for the cause of peace in the Sudan and South Sudan and played an instrumental role in the successful referendum in 2011.

    John is well known for his bipartisan work with former majority leader Bill Frist on comprehensive HIV/AIDS legislation that laid the foundation for [[Page S345]] the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, a program that provides lifesaving treatment for people with HIV/AIDS and supports broad prevention efforts that save lives every day.

    Many of you know that John is a tireless and most convincing advocate for addressing global climate change and supporting the transition to a clean energy future. As chairman of the Committee on Foreign Relations, he convened eight major hearings and roundtables on climate change and energy security, underscoring their connection to global stability, economic competitiveness, and America's national security.

    In his new role, his portfolio will be greatly expanded as he represents the interests of the Nation, from securing our Embassies and protecting our overseas personnel to promoting commerce, enhancing cross-cultural ties, and keeping America secure through cooperation where possible and isolation where necessary, as in the cases of Iran and North Korea.

    Whatever the challenges we will face as a nation, in my view, the State Department could not be in better hands. When it comes to America's role in world affairs, I know we all agree that it is critical that the United States remain fully engaged, that we project not only the power of our military strength when necessary but the wisdom of our democratic ideas. I have no doubt that Senator Kerry will rise to meet these challenges as he has so consistently in his many years of service to his State and this country.

    I see the distinguished ranking member on the committee, Senator Corker, whom I look forward to working with as we move forward in the days ahead.

    I think all Members will say that even when they did not agree with Chairman Kerry on a given issue, they always felt he had an open ear, an open door, an opportunity for full debate, an effort to seek the common ground, particularly in U.S. foreign policy. I believe those traits are going to serve him extraordinarily well in his role as Secretary of State as he deals with the Senate and the House of Representatives as part of promoting U.S. foreign policy in a way that brings us as cohesively together as we can to promote the national interests and securities of the United States.

    I look forward at the end of this time period to a strong confirmation vote to send a message to the world that this is our Secretary of State, and he speaks for America on behalf of the Obama administration and the people of the United States.

    Madam President, I yield the floor.

    The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Tennessee.

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