WASHINGTON — The Senate overwhelmingly approved Hillary Rodham Clinton as President Obama's secretary of state Wednesday, after a one-day delay forced by a Republican senator who wanted to continue debating her husband's overseas fundraising activities.
The delay had the effect of denying Clinton a confirmation vote on Inauguration Day, when six other Cabinet members were approved. However, Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, who sought the delay, praised Clinton's abilities Wednesday and ended up voting in favor of the confirmation, which was approved 94-2. The votes against came from Sen. David L. Vitter, R-La., and Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C.
The delay showed the willingness of Republican lawmakers to take a tough line with the new president by closely questioning his legislative proposals and nominees.
Republicans on Wednesday also forced a weeklong delay in the consideration of Attorney General-designate Eric H. Holder Jr. Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee said they want to question Holder further about his role in controversial clemency cases during Bill Clinton's administration and other matters. Republicans who initiated the move included Cornyn, Sen. Charles E. Grassley of Iowa, Sen. Jon Kyl of Arizona and Sen. Jeff Sessions of Georgia.
An hour after the vote, Hillary Clinton was sworn in and resigned her U.S. Senate seat. She planned to meet today with State Department employees.
Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., who lost the presidency to Obama, supported Clinton. McCain at one point proposed to halt the debate for a vote that could allow her to begin work immediately.
Meanwhile, Obama's treasury secretary nominee, Timothy Geithner, apologized to senators Wednesday for failing to pay $34,000 in self-employment taxes while he was working at the International Monetary Fund.
"These were careless mistakes. They were avoidable mistakes, but they were unintentional," Geithner told the Senate Finance Committee. Geithner paid the taxes after an IRS audit uncovered the omission.
The controversy, especially relevant for Geithner because the Treasury Department oversees the IRS, is unlikely to derail his nomination. As president of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, Geithner worked closely with the Bush administration on the current financial crisis and is widely viewed by Republicans and Democrats as the most qualified candidate for the job.
A vote on his nomination could come as early as today.
A Senate vote hasn't been scheduled yet on Susan Rice's nomination to be the next ambassador to the United Nations, but she's seen as a shoo-in. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee endorsed her nomination Wednesday.
Once confirmed, she would become the first African-American woman in the post and will report directly to President Obama as a member of his Cabinet.
Information from the Los Angeles Times and Associated Press was used in this report.