Saturday, 2:15 PM
Kerry expected to get top foreign affairs panel post
By Bryan Bender, Globe Staff
WASHINGTON -- More than three decades after he first appeared before the panel as a 27-year-old Vietnam veteran-turned-antiwar protester, Senator John F. Kerry is widely expected to be named the new chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, a position that will give him enormous influence over international relations.
Senator John F. Kerry
The pending announcement by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, which congressional aides said could come as early as today, would elevate Kerry to the top of the foreign policy establishment and give him a major role in shaping President-elect Barack Obama's foreign policy priorities.
Kerry, 64, who was elected to a fifth term in the US Senate from Massachusetts earlier this month, will be officially handed the gavel when the new congressional session convenes in January, according to multiple Capitol Hill sources. He will replace the outgoing chairman, Vice President-elect Joe Biden.
Kerry is still considered by some observers to be on Obama's short list for secretary of state, but many believe Senator Hillary Clinton and New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson, who both met with Obama last week about the post, are more likely to be the candidates for the nation's top diplomatic post.
Along with the Judiciary and Finance Committees, Foreign Relations was one of the first three committees established, in 1816. It is responsible for vetting treaties to be ratified by the full Senate and conducting the confirmation process for presidential nominees for the Department of State, including the nation's top diplomat and all its foreign ambassadors.
Moreover, the committee oversees the State Department budget and also funds foreign aid programs, helps set arms control policy, and authorizes military training for allied nations.
Kerry's path to the chairmanship would mark the end of a particularly unique journey. It began when he testified for nearly two hours before the committee on April 22, 1971, the first Vietnam veteran to do so. Speaking on behalf of other Vietnam veterans, he spoke of the "absolute horror of what this country, in a sense, made them do" in Southeast Asia and appealed for an end to US military involvement.