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Condoleezza Rice Sworn-in as Secretary of State

Rice will be 66th Secretary of State; first African-American woman in post

Posted: January 26, 2005

Washington – Former National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice was sworn in as the 66th U.S. secretary of state at 7:07 p.m. in a White House ceremony on January 26.

Earlier in the day, the U.S. Senate had confirmed Rice’s nomination as secretary of state by a vote of 85 to 13, following nine hours of floor debate that ended January 26.

Previously, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee approved the nomination by a vote of 16-2 on January 19 and sent it to the full Senate. An immediate vote on her nomination set for January 20 was delayed after Senate Democrats indicated to the chamber's leadership they wanted an extended debate on the nomination.

Rice succeeds Colin L. Powell, a former Army general and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and becomes the first African-American woman to serve as the nation's top diplomat.

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, a Tennessee Republican, had predicted at the outset of debate that Rice would have "an overwhelming majority" of votes.

Debate on her nomination focused extensively on the Iraq war and Rice's role in advising President Bush on the arguments for ending the regime of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.

The debate, however, coupled with the extended committee questioning, which took 11 hours over two days, gave a detailed look of the U.S. foreign policy-making process and the roles of Congress and national security advisors in policy-making.

But the two days of Senate debate fell along party lines with a number of Democrats speaking, for the most part, against her nomination and Republicans speaking in support. The outcome, however, was never in doubt.

Senator Diane Feinstein, a California Democrat, reminded the senators "a president deserves to have his selections confirmed."

Customarily and by tradition, the Senate confirms presidential Cabinet nominations without extensive debate under the long-standing belief that a president is entitled to have Cabinet officers serving him of his own choosing.

Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Richard G. Lugar, an Indiana Republican, commended the Rice nomination to the full Senate, saying, "We will be participants in an historic moment that will reaffirm the Senate's role in foreign policy and underscore the brilliance of the Constitutional design."

Rice responded to 199 questions during two days of hearings before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee -- 129 from Democrats and 70 from Republicans. She also responded to 191 written questions.

"Thus, Dr. Rice responded to a total of 390 questions from senators. In American history, few Cabinet nominees have provided as much information or answered as many questions during the confirmation process," Lugar said. "She demonstrated that her understanding of U.S. foreign policy is comprehensive and insightful."

Senator Joseph Biden, the ranking Democratic member of the committee, offered his support of Rice's nomination, but said that he did so with some reservations, which mostly stemmed from the current U.S. policies on Iraq.

Senator Edward M. Kennedy, a Massachusetts Democrat, led off the criticism of Rice's nomination and the administration's Iraq policy overall saying, "Dr. Rice was a key member of the national security team that developed and justified the rationale for war, and it's been a catastrophic failure, a continuing quagmire. In these circumstances, she should not be promoted to secretary of state."

But Senator Joseph I. Lieberman, a Connecticut Democrat, said "what unites us around this very qualified nominee in this time of war is much greater than what divides us."

Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison, a Texas Republican, said Rice is capable, trusted by the Bush administration, and has the knowledge of foreign policy from 25 years of experience.

Rice, before becoming Bush's national security advisor in 2001, served for six years as provost at Stanford University and as the school's chief budget and academic officer. She was also a professor of political science and is a specialist in Soviet affairs. She served previously in the administration of the President Bush's father on the National Security Council.

Merle D. Kellerhals, Jr.
Washington File Staff Writer

 

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