Hillary Rodham Clinton is on her way to becoming the nation's top diplomat, with Democrats expecting a favorable Senate committee vote on her nomination next week and even Republicans singing her praises.
"I think she's a known commodity. She's been tested in a lot of ways," said Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. "She expresses herself well, and I don't think she'll make any rookie mistakes."
The timetable for Clinton's confirmation has been closely watched because her departure from the Senate would give New York Gov. David Paterson, a fellow Democrat, the power to appoint her successor. Caroline Kennedy, the scion of a political dynasty, wants the job. Paterson has said he is considering her along with several other candidates.
Clinton is expected to testify before the Foreign Relations Committee on Tuesday, with a committee vote two days later, before the start of a separate confirmation hearing for Susan Rice, President-elect Barack Obama's pick for U.N. ambassador.
If approved by the panel, Clinton could be confirmed by the full Senate before Obama takes office on Jan. 20.
In advance of the hearing, Clinton has been reaching out to individual senators through telephone calls and lengthy sit-down meetings, including an hour-long meeting last month with Sen. Richard Lugar of Indiana, the top Republican on the Foreign Relations Committee.
On Wednesday, Clinton attended the Democrats' weekly policy lunch at the Capitol. She declined to talk with reporters afterward.
While Republicans are not expected to block Clinton's appointment, they do plan to raise questions about a potential conflict of interest with her husband's business dealings. Former President Bill Clinton's charitable foundation has accepted millions of dollars from foreign governments and corporations, including Saudi Arabia.
Clinton's charity, which financed his presidential library in Little Rock, Ark., and charitable efforts in dozens of countries to reduce poverty and treat AIDS, released its financial records last month because of his wife's appointment.
Obama's spokesman said at the time that donors will continue to be disclosed on an annual basis.
One Senate Republican aide said that staff has just started to comb through the records and will want to make sure there aren't any problems.
"Transparency is something they're going to want to continue to see," said the aide, who requested anonymity because the staffer was not authorized to speak publicly on the matter.
The lack of contention surrounding Clinton's nomination so far is at least in part a result of Senate protocol. Senators are generally willing to allow an incoming president to pick his Cabinet without too much interference.
They also tend to give a certain amount of leeway to one of their own; Clinton spent eight years as the junior senator from New York. While Republicans did not agree with her on such big-ticket political issues as health care and the economy, most GOP senators believe she worked well with them on day-to-day matters, according to Republican aides.
Clinton also is seen by many within the Senate as someone well versed on the nuances of foreign affairs and a strong supporter of Israel — a requirement for a Congress that has allied itself strongly with the Jewish nation.
"My friend and colleague Hillary Clinton will bring her years of experience and acute intellect to her position as America's top diplomat," said Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., the incoming chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee.