U.S. News

U.S. Senate expected to confirm Blinken as Secretary of State on Tuesday

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Senate is expected to confirm President Joe Biden’s nominee for secretary of state, veteran diplomat Antony Blinken, on Tuesday, after the Senate Foreign Relations Committee voted strongly in favor of his appointment.

FILE PHOTO: Antony J. Blinken, of New York, speaks during his confirmation hearing to be Secretary of State before the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., U.S. January 19, 2021. Graeme Jennings/Pool via REUTERS/File Photo

After the 15-3 vote by the committee, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said the full Senate would vote on Blinken at noon EST (1600 GMT) on Tuesday.

Although the three committee no votes came from Republicans, Blinken is expected to be confirmed with strong bipartisan support.

Many lawmakers, including some Republicans, said they wanted Biden’s national security team to be in place as quickly as possible.

“The world is on fire right now, with pressing crises in every region and hemisphere,” said Senator Bob Menendez, the top Democrat on the foreign relations panel, who is due to become its chairman.

At the moment, Daniel Smith, former director of the Foreign Service Institute (FSI), is serving as acting secretary of state.

Blinken is a longtime Biden confidant who has been confirmed by the U.S. Senate before, most recently to serve as No. 2 at the State Department during former Democratic President Barack Obama’s administration, when Biden was vice president.

The 100-member Senate is divided 50-50 but controlled by Biden’s fellow Democrats because Vice President Kamala Harris can break any tie. Blinken needs only a simple majority to be confirmed.

Blinken’s confirmation hearing before the foreign relations panel went smoothly last week, with both Democrats and Republicans offering praise. Blinken was a committee staff director before he joined the Obama administration.

Blinken’s confirmation process did not begin as early as is typical for a secretary of state, as former President Donald Trump fought Biden’s election victory with fruitless court challenges. Trump supporters attacked the Capitol on Jan. 6.

Senate leaders also have been jockeying over rules for how the chamber should conduct its business, given the 50-50 split between the two parties.

Reporting by Patricia Zengerle and Humeyra Pamuk; Editing by Peter Cooney and Stephen Coates