Thu, Jan 22, 2009 - Page 7 News List

Senate puts off vote on Clinton



The US Senate on Tuesday swiftly approved six members of President Barack Obama’s Cabinet, but put off for a day the vote on his choice to be secretary of state, Senator Hillary Clinton.

The Senate confirmed all six with a single voice vote a little more than three hours after Obama took the oath of office to become the 44th president.

But Democratic hopes to add Clinton to that list were sidetracked when one senator, Republican John Cornyn, objected to the unanimous vote.

Cornyn said he still had concerns about foreign donations to the foundation headed by Clinton’s husband, former US president Bill Clinton.

Those confirmed were Steven Chu for energy secretary, Arne Duncan for education, Janet Napolitano for homeland security, Eric Shinseki for veterans affairs, Ken Salazar for interior and Tom Vilsack for agriculture.

The Senate also approved Peter Orszag, recently the director of the Congressional Budget Office, to head the White House’s Office of Management and Budget.

Obama signed nominating papers for his Cabinet choices about an hour after he took the oath.

Senate leaders agreed to have a roll call vote on Clinton yesterday after three hours of debate.

Jim Manley, spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, predicted that “she will receive overwhelming bipartisan support at that time.”

The vote became necessary after Cornyn objected to the voice vote. In the Senate, a single senator can block measures from being approved by voice.

He said he wanted “a full and open debate and an up-or-down vote.”

Important questions remain unanswered concerning the foundation headed by her husband, he said, “and its acceptance of donations from foreign entities.”

“Transparency transcends partisan politics and the American people deserve to know more,” he said.

Cornyn’s spokesman, Kevin McLaughlin, said the senator was not trying to block her confirmation but was seeking more debate on the donation issue.

Several Republicans raised questions at Hillary Clinton’s confirmation hearing about possible conflicts of interest from Bill Clinton’s fundraising work and his acceptance of large donations from foreign countries and companies.

Senator Richard Lugar, top Republican on the Foreign Relations Committee, urged Hillary Clinton to improve transparency in her husband’s fundraising activities.

He said the former president’s foundation should stop taking foreign contributions while Hillary Clinton serves as secretary of state. McLaughlin said Cornyn had asked for similar steps.

In her testimony, Hillary Clinton said the foundation would provide a clearer picture of its annual donations.

Pending her confirmation, the State Department’s third-ranking official, Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs William Burns, will serve as acting secretary of state and be in charge of executing Obama’s foreign policy.

Hillary Clinton has asked Burns to stay in his job.

Also left unconfirmed were several other top members of Obama’s Cabinet. Timothy Geithner, the nominee to head the treasury department, was to face the Finance Committee yesterday, where he would have to explain his initial failure to pay payroll taxes he owed while working for the IMF.

The Judiciary Committee was expected to vote as early as yesterday on Eric Holder to be attorney general. Also still in the confirmation process was former Senate Democratic leader Tom Daschle, Obama’s pick to head health and human services.

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