WASHINGTON (Talon News) — On Wednesday, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee confirmed Dr. Condoleezza Rice as the nation’s next secretary of state. Although her name has been sent to the full Senate for approval, Democrats say they want more time to consider the nomination.
After two days of tough questioning of Rice, the committee voted 16-2 to confirm Rice. Senators Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and John Kerry (D-MA) dissented.
“I choose to vote my concerns, not to overlook them,” Kerry said during a committee meeting. “I choose to vote my gut, not custom.”
Kerry characterized Rice, the current national security adviser, as one of the “principal architects” of policies that he said have made the U.S. less secure.
“We went in to rescue Iraq from Saddam Hussein. Now I think we have to rescue our policy from ourselves,” said Kerry.
Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN) hopes to hold the full Senate vote when they convene Thursday. If confirmed, Rice would become the first African-American woman and second female to become secretary of state. She would replace Colin Powell, who was unanimously confirmed by the committee in 2001.
However, some Democrats plan to make a symbolic protest by delaying the vote. Aides said Boxer and Sen. Robert Byrd (D-WV) are planning long speeches in opposition to the nomination in an effort to extend the debate until 7 p.m., when the inaugural balls begin.
The aides said Boxer and Byrd hope some GOP members will opt to leave and the vote will be delayed until next week. Republican aides said Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Richard Lugar will push to get Rice’s nomination approved today.
Ranking Democrat Sen. Joe Biden of Delaware said that while he “could easily see how I would go that way,” he would vote for her confirmation out of a sense of optimism and a recognition that they will have to work together. Before his approval, though, Biden was critical of Rice.
“Instead of seizing the opportunity, it seems to me, Dr. Rice, you have danced around it and, sort of, stuck to the party line, which seems pretty consistent: You’re always right,” Biden said. “You never made any mistakes. You’re never wrong.”
Biden also said he hopes “we can start leveling” on the realistic prospects for success in Iraq and wanted to know how Rice would deal with the North Korean nuclear threat, a situation that he portrayed that the U.S. seems “to be sitting on the sidelines.”
Biden continued his criticism of Rice for her statement that 120,000 Iraqi security officers are trained. He contended that she did not state how many were currently fully trained.
“We are months, probably years away from reaching our target goal,” Biden said. “‘Don’t Worry, Be Happy,’ that calypso song, should be the theme of the Defense Department.”
“God love you, please do me a favor,” Biden said in his closing remarks to Rice. “Start to tell us the whole deal.”
On Wednesday, Boxer continued her barrage on Rice. She accused Rice of misleading the U.S. about the threat in Iraq.
“I find it so troubling that the Bush administration used the fear of terror to make the war against Iraq appear to be in response to 9/11,” Boxer said. “Now I don’t know one American who wants Saddam Hussein to see the light of day. I don’t. So that’s not the point. It’s about candor, it’s about telling the whole story.”
She also criticized Rice and the administration for tying al Qaeda to Iraq. Rice denied the allegation.
“I think we did say that there was never an issue of operational control, that Saddam Hussein has nothing to do with 9/11 as far as know or could tell,” Dr. Rice replied. “It wasn’t a question of operational lines. It was a question about an attitude about terrorism that allowed [Abu Musab al-Zarqawi] to be in Baghdad and operational in Baghdad.”
Sen. Lincoln Chafee (R-RI) urged Rice to consider reconciliation with Iran.
Rebutted Rice, “It is really hard to find common ground with a government that thinks Israel should be extinguished, [supports terror groups and is undercutting U.S. peace efforts in the Middle East].”
On Tuesday, Rice vowed to reach out to America’s allies around the globe in future policy decisions. She added that she would try to mend strained relations.
“The time for diplomacy is now,” Rice said. “I will work with members of Congress, from both sides of the aisle, to build a strong bipartisan consensus behind America’s foreign policy. I will seek to strengthen our alliances, to support our friends, and to make the world safer, and better.”
Responding to Democrats who criticized the administration’s handling of the post war insurgency in Iraq, Rice said, “We can certainly have, I think, a healthy debate about the course that we should take going forward.
“I will be candid,” Rice promised. “My assessments may not always be ones that you want to hear. They may not always be the ones with which you agree. But I will tell you what I think.”