Hillary is secretary of state, clears India link hurdle (Second Lead)

January 22nd, 2009 - 12:57 pm ICT by IANS  

Barack ObamaWashington, Jan 22 (IANS) Hillary Clinton has become America’s chief diplomat though some lawmakers’ concerns about her husband’s foundation and the former first family’s perceived links with India delayed her Senate confirmation by a day.Clinton was sworn in as the 67th US secretary of state to succeed Condoleezza Rice Wednesday evening shortly after the Senate approved her nomination by an overwhelming 94-2 vote.

Republican Senator John Cornyn, who had held up a voice vote on her confirmation Tuesday, also voted for her, suggesting he only wanted to air his concerns about the danger of perceived conflicts of interest caused by the foundation’s solicitation of “hundreds of millions of dollars from foreign and some domestic sources”.

He also cited a huge donation by an Indian politician to the Clinton Foundation when the India-US civil nuclear deal was before the Congress for its final approval as “just one example of the perception of conflict of interest”.

Former president and her husband Bill Clinton and her Senate staff looked on as Clinton’s childhood friend and DC appeals court Associate Judge Kathleen Oberly swore her in on a Bible belonging to the former first lady’s late father, in a ceremony in her Senate office.

Immediately after the ceremony, Clinton submitted her resignation from the Senate with identical one-sentence letters to Vice President Joe Biden, who serves as president of the Senate, Secretary of the Senate Nancy Erickson and New York Governor David Paterson.

But she got confirmed only after Cornyn, whose objection had held up Clinton’s confirmation Tuesday, had his say.

Cornyn said he knew that Clinton would be confirmed but said he delayed the vote because he wanted more time to talk about the foundation run by Bill Clinton.

When President Barack Obama announced Clinton’s nomination in December, the transition team revealed a complex agreement with the foundation that requires annual disclosure and some limits on soliciting foreign contributions.

“My concern is not whether our colleague Senator Clinton is qualified to be secretary of state or not. She is,” Cornyn said.

“But we should not let our respect for Senator Clinton or our admiration for the many good works of the Clinton Foundation blind us to the danger of perceived conflicts of interest caused by the [foundation's] solicitation of hundreds of millions of dollars from foreign and some domestic sources,” he said.

“The perception and reality must be that the office of secretary of state is viewed around the world as beyond reproach.”

Citing a huge donation by an Indian politician, presumably Samajwadi leader Amar Singh whose name figured among Clinton Foundation donors, Cornyn said it was “just one example of the perception of conflict of interest that I think ought to give all of us concern”.

“Now, last year, last Congress, we voted to support a civilian nuclear technology arrangement with the country of India and I voted for it,” he said.

“But one of the problems is, for example, one of the individuals who was lobbying for that, a politician in India who gave between $1 million and $5 million to the foundation, was actually lobbying Congress to pass this very same deal at the time he was making a significant contribution to the foundation.

“I’m not suggesting anything untoward or improper about that but I’m pointing out the very real example of the perception of conflict of interest, something I think we all would hope to avoid,” Cornyn said.

The two senators who opposed Clinton’s confirmation were Republicans Jim DeMint and David Vitter. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee voted 16-1 last week in favour of Clinton’s nomination, with Vitter casting the sole dissenting vote.

In her confirmation hearing before the Senate panel, Clinton advocated the use of “smart power”, arguing that the US should engage such hostile powers as Iran and Syria and pursue partnerships with China and Russia.

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