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Hillary Clinton's confirmation as top US diplomat delayed

world Updated: Jan 21, 2009 23:08 IST
Arun Kumar
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Hours after Barack Obama's inauguration, the Senate swiftly approved six members of the new president's cabinet, but the confirmation of Hillary Clinton as secretary of state was delayed by a day on a senator's objection.

The Senate confirmed all six with a single voice vote a little more than three hours after Obama was sworn in to give his administration a head start, but a vote on Hillary Clinton was put off with Republican John Cornyn objecting to the unanimous vote.

Cornyn said he still had concerns about foreign donations to the foundation headed by her husband, former President Bill Clinton.

Obama signed nominating papers for his Cabinet choices in his first presidential as he went into the Capitol after the inauguration. He also signed a proclamation of national renewal and reconciliation.

"I'm a lefty. Get used to it," Obama quipped as he signed his name. "I was told not to swipe the pen."

Senate leaders agreed to have a roll call vote on Hillary Clinton Wednesday after three hours of debate. Jim Manley, spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, predicted that "she will receive overwhelming bipartisan support at that time".

Cornyn sought "a full and open debate and an up-or-down vote on Senator Clinton's nomination". He said important questions remain unanswered concerning Bill Clinton's foundation "and its acceptance of donations from foreign entities. Transparency transcends partisan politics and the American people deserve to know more".

Several Republicans raised questions at Hillary Clinton's confirmation hearing about possible conflicts of interest from Bill Clinton's fundraising work and his acceptance of large donations from foreign countries and companies.

Pending Hillary Clinton's confirmation, Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs William Burns will serve as acting secretary of state and be in charge of executing Obama's foreign policy. Hillary Clinton has asked Burns, a career diplomat, to stay in his current job.

Besides Hillary Clinton, another key nominee Timothy Geithner, Obama's choice as treasury secretary remains unconfirmed. The Finance Committee will have hold a hearing on Geithner's nomination Wednesday. His nomination ran into trouble over his initial failure to pay about $35,000 taxes he owed while working for the International Monetary Fund.

Those confirmed were Steven Chu to be energy secretary, Arne Duncan for education, Janet Napolitano for homeland security, Eric Shinseki to head veterans affairs, Ken Salazar for interior and Tom Vilsack to lead the department of agriculture.

The Senate also approved Peter Orszag, recently the director of the Congressional Budget Office, to head the White House's Office of Management and Budget.