Kerry’s Confirmation Hearing: Short on Development, Long on Promise

January 29, 2013

Senator John Kerry aced his confirmation hearing to be Secretary of State and all but guaranteed that he would win a speedy confirmation from the Senate – possibly as soon as this week. And while he didn't go as deep on development as I had hoped, he touched on several important principles like working closely with Congress and defending the budget .This is a bit of what he said on development:The US Budget: “The greatest challenge to America's foreign policy will be in your hands, not mine…My plea is that we can summon across party lines, without partisan diversions, an economic patriotism which recognizes that American strength and prospects abroad depend on American strength, and results at home. It's hard to tell the leadership of a number of countries that they have to deal with the IMF, balance their budget, and create economic order where there is none, if we don't provide it for ourselves…One discussion that I particularly look forward to beginning with you, my colleagues, and with our country, is about the commitment we make in our foreign affairs budget – less than one percent of the entire budget of the government.”Climate: “The solution to climate change is energy policy, and the opportunities of energy policy so vastly outweigh the downsides … I will spend a lot of time to try to persuade you and other colleagues about this.”Pakistan: “I am not going to recommend, nor do I think it is wise for American policy, to just cut our assistance. We need to build our relationship with the Pakistanis, not diminish.”Balancing Development, Diplomacy and Defense: “President Obama and every one of us here know that American foreign policy is not defined by drones, and deployments alone…. American foreign policy is also defined by food security, energy security, humanitarian assistance, the fight against disease, and the push for development, as much as it is by any single counterterrorism initiative. And it must be.” Above all, Sen. Kerry said he would maintain a close relationship with Congress if confirmed as Secretary of State. I was encouraged by these remarks. But perhaps the most pragmatic statement of the hearing came from Secretary Clinton during her introductory remarks when she said, “We've achieved a great deal, but the State Department and USAID have a lot of unfinished business.”Indeed, the next Secretary of State will inherit a development agenda that is strong in principle but unfulfilled. Among the most pressing matters: the whole-of-government approach has not been wholly successful, and there is much more that a new secretary can do to help elevate development alongside diplomacy and defense—including giving the USAID administrator a seat at the table. And, while global health was conspicuously absent during the hearing, it’s an issue I hope Sen. Kerry is thinking a great deal about particularly as the State Department just launched a new office of Global Health Diplomacy and PEPFAR (potentially) faces reauthorization in 2013.Still, Sen. Kerry has been a strong leader on these and other development issues for decades, and my hope is that he will continue to do so from his new perch at the State Department.[UPDATE 1/29/13: Sen. Kerry was easily confirmed to be the next secretary of state by the Senate with a vote of 94-3.]


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