Sen. John Kerry (D., Mass.) addressed Iran's nuclear program, said there was no evidence of a protest during the Benghazi attack on September 11, 2012, and highlighted the Obama administration's belief that global warming is a pressing national concern during his confirmation hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
President Barack Obama nominated Kerry to be secretary of state on Dec. 21, 2012.
Current Secretary Hillary Clinton, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D., Mass.), and Sen. John McCain (R., Ariz.) all gave statements introducing Kerry.
Warren compared Kerry to John Quincy Adams, the author of the Monroe Doctrine, and to the late Sen. Ted Kennedy, drawing a parallel between Kennedy’s domestic agenda and Kerry’s international agenda.
McCain praised Kerry’s chairmanship of a committee in the early 1990s into remaining prisoners of war in Vietnam.
Despite recommending Kerry’s approval "without reservation," McCain noted, "I’m sure we’ll have our disagreements," should Kerry be confirmed for the position.
The hearing comes right on the heels of Clinton’s testimony yesterday regarding the attacks in Benghazi, and at one point Kerry somewhat undermined the administration’s stated position that officials did not know whether there were protests in Benghazi on the day of the attacks.
Responding to a question by Sen. Ron Johnson (R., Wisc.) about his knowledge of the intelligence, Kerry said, "Senator, it’s, uh, the intel that I got and that I was told by people was that there were no protests at that, at, at, at, in, in, uh, there were no protests in Benghazi, but that there had been protests in Cairo."
Kerry also said in his opening statement that the United States "will do what we must to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon," saying that the United States has a policy of prevention, not containment.
Kerry also suggested that fighting climate change should be a key portion of American foreign policy.
"American foreign policy is also defined by food security, energy security, humanitarian assistance, the fight against disease and the push for development, as much as it is by any single counter-terrorism initiative, and it must be," Kerry said at the hearing.
"It is defined by leadership on life threatening issues like climate change," he continued. "It affects life itself on the planet."
Kerry’s testimony was interrupted by a protest by a member of the anti-war group Code Pink—an interruption Kerry seemed to approve of.
"I respect, I think, the woman who was voicing her concerns about that part of the world," Kerry said.
Kerry reminded the committee that he first came to Washington, D.C., as an anti-war protester himself and that his first testimony before the Senate in 1971 against the Vietnam War.
Kerry threw away his military ribbons in protest against the Vietnam War.
When asked about fellow nominee Chuck Hagel’s support for unilaterally eliminating the United States’ nuclear arsenal, Kerry dismissed the idea as fantasy.
"It’s not something that could happen in today’s world, and nor could any leader sit here or in any other chair and promote to you the notion that we ought to be cutting down our deterrent level below an adequate level to maintain deterrence," Kerry said of Obama’s defense secretary nominee’s involvement with the group Global Zero.
"I don’t think Sen. Hagel is sitting there–or he’s going to go over to the Defense Department and be a proponent (of Global Zero)," Kerry went on to say. "I think Sen. Hagel is realistic about it."
Sen. Kerry is appearing before the committee he currently chairs. Sen. Robert Menendez (D., N.J.) is filling in for Kerry today.
Kerry is one of the wealthiest members of Congress and is the wealthiest member of the Senate. He is worth almost $200 million, records show. He is married to Teresa Heinz Kerry, the heir to the Heinz condiment fortune.
First elected to the Senate in 1984, Kerry ran for president in 2004 against President George W. Bush. He lost.
Obama nominated Kerry after his presumptive first pick for the post, Susan Rice, faced unrelenting criticism from Senate Republicans over her comments to the press regarding the attack on a diplomatic outpost in Benghazi, Libya.
Clinton testified before both houses of Congress on Wednesday about the terror attack, and incident has surfaced in Kerry’s confirmation hearing, as well.