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Senate panel approves Kerry nomination

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Tuesday swiftly and unanimously approved President Barack Obama's choice of Sen. John Kerry to succeed Hillary Rodham Clinton as secretary of state.

By voice vote, the panel approved the nomination of the five-term Massachusetts Democrat, who has been a member of the committee for 28 years and led it for the past four. The full Senate likely will vote on Tuesday afternoon.

Kerry did not attend the session in the ornate diplomatic room in the Capitol. In his absence, Democrats and Republicans praised Kerry and remarked on his extensive grasp of the issues during his confirmation hearing last Thursday.

"Long-winded," joked Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., a Kerry friend who had introduced the senator at that hearing.

Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., who succeeds Kerry as committee chairman, said the senator would be a "formidable secretary of state."

Obama chose Kerry, 69, the son of a diplomat, decorated Vietnam veteran and 2004 Democratic presidential candidate, to succeed Clinton, who is stepping down after four years. The senator had pined for the top diplomatic job that went to Clinton after Obama's 2008 election.

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