Kerry Praised for Leadership on ‘Most Consequential Issue of Our Time – Climate Change’

By Penny Starr | January 24, 2013 | 11:42 AM EST

( - Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) opened Sen. John Kerry’s Secretary of State confirmation hearing Thursday, praising Kerry’s leadership “on the most consequential issue of our time – climate change.”

For the record, Kerry mentioned climate change only in passing in his opening statement to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. (He said American foreign policy is "defined by food security and energy security, humanitarian assistance, the fight against disease and the push for development, as much as it is by any single counter terrorism initiative. It is defined by leadership on life-threatening issues like climate change...")

He also issued a call to put America’s economy on a solid footing:

“The first priority of business which will affect my credibility as a diplomat working to help other countries create order, is whether America at last puts its own fiscal house in order,” Kerry said.

“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.”

Menendez, in his opening remarks, praised Kerry’s military service, remembering him as a young Vietnam War hero who appeared before the same committee in 1971. Kerry at the time accused U.S. troops of such atrocities as beheadings and rape.

Kerry, who is expected to be easily confirmed as Hillary Clinton’s successor, was introduced and endorsed at the hearing by Clinton, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.).

Although Kerry chairs the Senate Foreign Relations Committee – “the only major Committee I have served on every single day since I arrived here in 1985,”  he noted – Menendez took the gavel for today’s hearing.