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Senate confirms Antony Blinken as Biden's secretary of state

Blinken has pledged to re-engage U.S. allies and supports a tough approach to China.
Image: FILE PHOTO: Senate panel holds confirmation hearing for secretary of state nominee
Antony Blinken at his confirmation hearing to be secretary of state before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Jan. 19.Alex Edelman / Reuters

The Senate confirmed Antony Blinken as President Joe Biden's secretary of state on Tuesday with overwhelming bipartisan support.

A foreign affairs veteran with a family history of public service, Blinken will be the 71st top U.S. diplomat and senior-most Cabinet member, serving as the chief representative of United States around the globe. The vote to confirm him was 78-22.

“Mr. Blinken must be confirmed so we can start addressing the challenges we face abroad," Sen. Bob Menenedez, D-N.J., said ahead of the vote. "Every day there is an event or calamity across the globe. Whether it is a massacre in Ethiopia or democratic protests in Russia, we need U.S. leadership and engagement to chart our foreign policy through these troubling troubling times.”

Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky was among the Republicans who voted against Blinken’s confirmation, voicing his objection to his record on supporting U.S. military intervention in conflicts overseas.

Blinken has served Biden in various roles for over two decades, including as a staff member on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Many of the senators who voted to support Blinken's nomination had also confirmed him for the No. 2 position at the State Department in the Obama administration, where he also served as deputy national security adviser.

His predecessor, Mike Pompeo, embraced former President Donald Trump's “America first” agenda as the leading principle of U.S. foreign policy and remained a staunch defender of Trump even as he was impeached for inciting his supporters to attack the U.S. Capitol — riots that prompted near universal condemnation from global leaders and left the United States further isolated on the world stage.

Blinken has pledged to re-engage U.S. allies, rebuild global alliances and lead from a position of “humility and confidence,” as the U.S. reels from its own domestic turmoil and the twin health and economic crises stemming from the coronavirus pandemic. He has also promised to revitalize a State Department weakened by years of attrition and low morale.

“American leadership still matters," Blinken said in his Senate confirmation hearing last week. "The reality is, the world, simply does not organize itself. When we're not engaged, when we're not leading, then one of two things is likely to happen: Either some other country tries to take our place, but not in a way that's likely to advance our interests and values, or maybe just as bad, no one does and then you have chaos. Either way, that does not serve the American people.”

Among the national security challenges he’ll face are an increasingly adversarial relationship with China, an emboldened North Korea and an escalating nuclear threat from Iran.

In a stark reversal from his predecessor, Blinken has already indicated that the U.S. will come back into compliance with the Iran nuclear deal if Tehran also meets its obligations. But not all U.S. foreign policy under Blinken will be a repudiation of the Trump administration. He has said the Trump administration was right in taking a tougher approach to China, and he has committed to keeping the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem, where it was moved under Trump.