Wednesday, January 21, 2009

She's Madame Secretary now.

Hillary Clinton confirmed as Secretary of State by 94-2 vote in Senate

Updated Wednesday, January 21st 2009, 9:24 PM

Gross/Getty

Hillary Clinton (l.), along side her husband, former President Bill Clinton, being sworn in as the next Secretary of State in her Senate office by Associate Judge Kathleen Oberly.

The Senate finally confirmed Hillary Clinton overwhelmingly Wednesday to be America's new secretary of state.

The New York senator, who fell agonizingly short in her quest for the most powerful office on Earth, is now perhaps the most powerful woman in the world.

Less than an hour after the vote, she was sworn in during a private ceremony at her Senate office, attended by husband Bill and her staff.

She immediately sent a letter to Vice President Biden and Gov. Paterson, giving up the seat she won while still First Lady and held for eight years and three weeks.

"This letter is to inform you that I resign my seat in the United States Senate effective immediately in order to assume my duties as Secretary of State of the United States," it read.

Clinton, 61, will be at her new desk at Foggy Bottom on Thursday.

The Senate approved Clinton after a mini-rebellion by conservative Republicans fizzled. Few members from either side of the aisle agreed with their complaint that Bill Clinton's global entanglements could compromise U.S. foreign policy.

The not-so-vast right wing conspiracy mustered just two no votes - Sens. David Vitter (R-La.) and Jim DeMint (R-S.C.).

Even Sen. John Cornyn (R-Tex.), who blocked Clinton from being confirmed with other cabinet members Tuesday, voted yes.

The first First Lady to launch her own political career goes on to inherit one of the toughest foreign-policy portfolios in U.S. history - a fact that prompted even other Republicans to urge a speedy and unanimous vote.

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), the defeated presidential candidate, urged his colleagues to stop dawdling.

"We're in two wars. There's a very fragile ceasefire in Gaza now between the Israelis and Hamas. The situation in North Korea ... seems to have deteriorated," said McCain, pointing to Obama's historic inauguration as evidence the country is tired of bickering.

"I think the message that the American people are sending us now is they want us to work together and get to work," McCain chastised.

Obama quickly signed the papers making the job official. Clinton was sworn in with her right hand on her late father's Bible. The oath was administered by a federal judge, Kathleen Oberly, who was a childhood friend.

Soon after, Clinton headed to the White House for meetings with her new boss. Thursday afternoon, Obama and Biden are due to meet with her at the State Department.

New York's only remaining senator - for the moment - offered one last huzzah to Clinton.

"Colleagues have the right to delay," Sen. Chuck Schumer said earlier in urging the Senate to act. "As a country and as a world, we need Hillary Rodham Clinton as secretary of state given her intelligence, her strength, her compass and her ability to get things done."

mmcauliff@nydailynews.com

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