By CONOR FINNEGAN, ABC News
(WASHINGTON) — Antony Blinken, a longtime aide to Joe Biden and former deputy Secretary of State, has been confirmed by the Senate to be America’s next top diplomat.
Blinken, confirmed on Tuesday 78-22, takes over an agency beleaguered by budget cuts and low morale, but has vowed to reinvest in American diplomacy.
The former second-in-command at the agency is a longtime aide to Biden — a close personal relationship that will be key to effectively speaking on behalf of the president while overseas. Blinken served as national security adviser to then-Vice President Biden and the top staffer on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee when then-senator Biden was its chair.
Blinken was approved by a wide bipartisan margin, but 22 Republicans voted against him. He also won bipartisan praise by the Senate panel Monday evening, with all Republicans voting in favor of his nomination except John Barrasso, Ted Cruz, and Rand Paul.
“Mr. Blinken has a long and distinguished history when it comes to statecraft and foreign relations matter. Certainly, he is very qualified for this job,” Sen. James Risch, R-Ida., the outgoing chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said on the Senate floor before Tuesday’s vote. “We need a secretary of state. This is the person for the job.”
During his confirmation hearing on Jan. 19, he drew a stark contrast with President Donald Trump’s “America First” vision and his predecessor Mike Pompeo’s “swagger” ethos. Instead, he emphasized “humility” in U.S. foreign policy and relying on U.S. alliances and international institutions to help the U.S. lead the world out of the coronavirus pandemic, through a rising wave of nationalism and authoritarian states, and other threats to global stability.
“Working across government and with partners around the world, we will revitalize American diplomacy to take on the most pressing challenges of our time. We’ll show up again, day-in, day-out whenever and wherever the safety and well-being of Americans is at stake,” he vowed during his testimony. “America, at its best, still has a greater ability than any country on earth to mobilize others for the greater good.”
But Blinken takes over a diplomatic corps that has been left bruised and brittle from bureaucratic malaise and shrinking budgets for years. From hiring freezes to political retaliation, the Trump administration in particular has been accused of deeply damaging morale and hollowing out the agency’s workforce.
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