President Joe Biden’s nominee Antony Blinken has been confirmed by the Senate as the next secretary of state, after a bipartisan confirmation vote with a final tally of 78-22.
Lawmakers, including some Republicans, have said that they want Mr Biden’s national security team in place as soon as possible. Avril Haines and Lloyd Austin have already been confirmed as director of national intelligence and secretary of defence respectively.
The Senate Foreign Relations Committee moved the nomination forward to the Senate floor after Mr Blinken received strong bipartisan support, with the committee voting 15-3 to proceed with his confirmation, Reuters reported.
New Jersey senator, and soon to be chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Bob Menendez said ahead of the vote: “The world is on fire right now, with pressing crises in every region and hemisphere”.
This is not the first time the veteran diplomat has been confirmed by the Senate. Mr Blinken served as deputy secretary of state in the Obama administration, from 2015 to 2017. Before that, he served as deputy national security adviser from 2013 to 2015.
Starting his career at the State Department during the Clinton administration in the 1990s, Mr Blinken also worked with Mr Biden in the early 2000s when the future president was chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and Mr Blinken was its Democratic staff director.
Mr Blinken will lead the charge to re-engage with the world after four years of a more isolationist United States under the leadership of Donald Trump and former secretary of state Mike Pompeo. During the first year of the Trump administration, the State Department was led by former oil executive Rex Tillerson, previously the CEO of ExxonMobil.
Mr Blinken speaks French and is the stepson of a Holocaust survivor, something he says shaped his worldview, Axios writes.
Like Mr Biden, Mr Blinken believes that the US can and should be a leading force for good in the world and should actively engage in multilateralism, using international relations to rally groups of nations to work towards common goals.
During his testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Mr Blinken said: “Humility and confidence should be the flipsides of America’s leadership coin. Humility because we have a great deal of work to do at home to enhance our standing abroad … But we’ll also act with confidence that America at its best still has a greater ability than any country on earth to mobilise others for the greater good.”
Mr Blinken also shared his personal family connection to the committee during his testimony, saying: “In addition to my own confirmation as deputy secretary of state, this committee confirmed my wife, Evan Ryan, who is here with me today, as assistant secretary of state for educational and cultural affairs; confirmed my uncle, Alan Blinken, as ambassador to Belgium, and confirmed my father, Donald Blinken, as ambassador to Hungary. I hope I don’t break the streak today.”