Sen. John Kerry became secretary of state on Tuesday with overwhelming support from his former colleagues. Only three Republican senators voted against the first Cabinet member to take a post in President Barack Obama's second administration.
The entire Texas delegation—Sens. John Cornyn and Ted Cruz—and Sen. Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma formed the small group of dissenters.
"Sen. Kerry has a long history of liberal positions that are not consistent with a majority of Texans," Cornyn said in a statement.
Two senators—Patty Murray, D-Wash., and John Hoeven, R-N.D.—skipped the hearing. Most Republicans approved the president's choice to head the U.S. State Department, even if they disagree with his politics.
Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee, the top Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, called Kerry "a realist" who will deal with unrest in Egypt, civil war in Syria, the threat of al-Qaeda-linked groups in Africa and Iran's pursuit of nuclear weapons.
Kerry, 69, is the son of a diplomat, a decorated Vietnam veteran, and 2004 Democratic presidential candidate. He replaces Hillary Clinton, who is stepping down after four years. Clinton has not denied rumors she is preparing for a presidential run in 2016. Kerry, of Massachusetts, wanted Clinton's job in 2009. Instead, he served as the president's unofficial envoy in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
No one expected Kerry's nomination to face difficulties. His confirmation process was uneventful compared to the fight senators are preparing over President Obama's other national security nominees—Chuck Hagel for defense secretary and John Brennan for CIA director.
Hagel, a former two-term Republican senator from Nebraska, faces strong opposition from members of his own party who question his support for reductions in the nuclear arsenal and cuts in defense spending. Hagel also has faced questions about his support for Israel and his position on taking a hard line with Iran.
Six Republicans say they intend to vote against Hagel. At least a dozen Democrats have voiced support for him. Hagel's confirmation hearing is scheduled to start Thursday.