- The Senate on Tuesday confirmed Antony Blinken as secretary of state with a 78-22 vote.
- Blinken is a veteran diplomat with a long working relationship with President Joe Biden.
- Blinken, along with Biden, has made repairing America’s alliances a top priority.
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The Senate voted 78-22 on Tuesday to confirm Antony Blinken as secretary of state, ushering in a new era of American diplomacy.
Though Blinken was confirmed in a bipartisan vote, he received the least support from Senate Republicans out of all President Joe Biden’s Cabinet nominees so far. With that said, Blinken still received more votes in favour of his confirmation than both secretaries of state under President Donald Trump, Rex Tillerson (56-43) and Mike Pompeo (57-42). The Senate has so far confirmed four of Biden’s Cabinet nominees.
Blinken, who formerly served as deputy secretary of state in the Obama administration, has a long history of working with Biden. When Biden was vice president, Blinken was his national security advisor. He also served as staff director on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee when Biden was chairman.
Biden’s decision to tap Blinken to be America’s top diplomat was applauded by members of the foreign policy community across the political spectrum.
“This is a good choice. Tony has the strong confidence of the president-elect and the knowledge and experience for the important work of rebuilding US diplomacy,” Matt Duss, a foreign policy advisor to the progressive Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders,tweeted in November.
Former Secretary of State Colin Powell, a Republican, in November said he was “delighted” to learn Biden had selected Blinken for the role.
During his confirmation hearing, Blinken underscored the importance of American leadership in the world. Biden has made repairing US alliances a key competent of his foreign policy agenda as part of a broader effort to repair America’s global reputation post-Trump.
“American leadership still matters. The reality is the world simply does not organise itself. When we’re not engaged, when we’re not leading, then one of two things is likely to happen: Either some other country tries to take our place, but not in a way that’s likely to advance our interests and values, or maybe just as bad, no one does, and then you have chaos,” Blinken told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
Sec. of State nominee Blinken:
"American leadership still matters. The reality is the world simply does not organize itself. When we're not engaged … one of two things is likely to happen: Either some other country tries to take our place … or maybe just as bad, no one does" pic.twitter.com/raAHoHJ9Q6
— NBC News (@NBCNews) January 19, 2021
Blinken signalled that the Biden administration will focus heavily on countering Russia, Iran, and China on the global stage. He also said that the US will move to end support for the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen, marking a major break from the policy of the Trump administration toward the kingdom.
The incoming secretary of state is poised to take a drastically different approach to the job than his predecessor, Mike Pompeo, who frequently decried multilateralism and criticised international institutions like the United Nations.
The Biden administration has already made big moves on the foreign policy front, with the president signing executive orders to return the US to the Paris climate accord and World Health Organisation. Both Blinken and Biden have emphasised that tackling climate change will be a major priority in concert with rekindling key partnerships.
“We can take on the existential threat posed by climate change. We can revitalize our core alliances, force multipliers of our influence around the world. Together, we are far better positioned to counter threats from Russia, Iran, North Korea, and to stand up for democracy and human rights,” Blinken said on January 19. “And in everything we do around the world, I believe that we can and we must ensure that our foreign policy is actually working to deliver for American working families, here at home.”