UPDATED - 2:00 p.m. ET
President Obama nominated Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., as the next secretary of state Friday afternoon.
The president called Kerry the “perfect choice” for the post. “John’s entire life has prepared him for this role,” Obama said, citing Kerry’s service in the Vietnam War, his Senate career, and his “central role in every major foreign policy debate in the last 30 years.”
Speculation of Kerry’s appointment has been widespread since U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice withdrew her name from consideration last week. Senate Republicans seized on Rice’s handling of the September attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya to thwart her chances of becoming the next secretary of state.
Kerry, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, is the only national security team member to be named today. White House officials say they are “not backing off” former Sen. Chuck Hagel, D-Neb., who the president is said to be considering as his next defense secretary, but no decisions have been made about Department of Defense or Central Intelligence Agency appointments.
Current Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was not present at Friday’s announcement, though the president said that she was “in good spirits” and “could not be more excited” about Kerry’s nomination. Clinton sustained a concussion after fainting from dehydration last Saturday and was forced to postpone her appearance before House and Senate committees regarding Benghazi.
Kerry has served as a diplomatic envoy for the White House on missions to Pakistan and Afghanistan, some of which have been kept secret. Publicly, Kerry spearheaded negotiations with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad (before he cracked down on protesters) and helped persuade President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan to agree to a 2009 runoff election. Kerry, who ran for president himself in 2004, was also the stand-in for Mitt Romney during President Obama’s 2012 debate preparation.
Kerry’s nomination as secretary of state will trigger a special election in Massachusetts, where he is the senior senator. If Kerry officially resigns on Inauguration Day (January 21, 2013), the special election primary would occur in May, and general election in June. There is speculation that Sen. Scott Brown, who lost his seat in a fiercely contested race to Democrat Elizabeth Warren, may run for Kerry’s seat on the Republican ticket.