US Senate gives nod to Kerry as secretary of state

Updated 30 January 2013
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US Senate gives nod to Kerry as secretary of state

WASHINGTON: John Kerry’s nomination as President Barack Obama’s new secretary of state sailed through the US Senate on Tuesday as his fellow senators voted overwhelmingly to confirm him to replace Hillary Clinton as the country’s top diplomat.
The vote was 94-3 in favor. The two senators from Texas, John Cornyn and Ted Cruz, and Oklahoma Senator James Inhofe, all Republicans, were the only no votes.
Three senators did not vote. Kerry, the senior Democratic senator from Massachusetts, voted “present.”
Kerry’s easy confirmation had been expected. The Senate agreed to vote quickly after his confirmation hearing last week. The Foreign Relations Committee had voted unanimously by voice vote earlier on Tuesday to back his nomination.
The Senate’s approval sets in motion a special election for Kerry’s Massachusetts Senate seat. The five-term senator and losing presidential candidate in 2004 is expected to be sworn later this week.
Senator Robert Menendez, chairman of the Foreign Relations committee, said before the roll call that a heavy vote for Kerry would send a “strong message” to the rest of the world that he had the firm backing of the entire United States.
Senator Bob Corker, the top Republican on the Foreign Relations committee, praised Kerry’s testimony on Thursday. “I thought that Senator Kerry acquitted himself exceptionally well in the hearings that we had last week,” he said on the Senate floor.
Kerry, beaming, was warmly congratulated by his fellow senators after the vote.
At the hearing of the Foreign Affair Committee, which he has chaired for four years, Kerry was visibly moved by applause and praise from his fellow senators.
“I’m honored beyond words,” he said, before making brief remarks about the importance of the committee going forward on issues like Middle East peace.
Kerry, who became a US senator 28 years ago, said he will make a final speech on the Senate floor on Wednesday.
“What a privilege to work with you and now to work with you in a different way. I thank you very, very much,” Kerry said.


Trump’s travel ban faces US Supreme Court showdown

Updated 22 April 2018
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Trump’s travel ban faces US Supreme Court showdown

  • The high court has never decided the legal merits of the travel ban.
  • The challengers have argued the policy was motivated by Trump’s enmity toward Muslims.

WASHINGTON: The first big showdown at the US Supreme Court over President Donald Trump’s immigration policies is set for Wednesday when the justices hear a challenge to the lawfulness of his travel ban targeting people from several Muslim-majority countries.
The case represents a test of the limits of presidential power. Trump’s policy, announced in September, blocks entry into the US of most people from Iran, Libya, Somalia, Syria and Yemen. Chad previously was on the list but Trump lifted those restrictions on April 10.
The high court has never decided the legal merits of the travel ban or any other major Trump immigration policy, including his move to rescind protections for young immigrants sometimes called Dreamers brought into the US illegally as children. It has previously acted on Trump requests to undo lower court orders blocking those two policies, siding with him on the travel ban and opposing him on the Dreamers. Trump’s immigration policies — also including actions taken against states and cities that protect illegal immigrants, intensified deportation efforts and limits on legal immigration — have been among his most contentious. 
The conservative-majority Supreme Court is due to hear arguments on Wednesday on the third version of a travel ban policy Trump first sought to implement a week after taking office in January 2017, and issue a ruling by the end of June. 
The lead challenger is the state of Hawaii, which argues the ban violates federal immigration law and the US Constitution’s prohibition on the government favoring one religion over another.
“Right now, the travel ban is keeping families apart. It is degrading our values by subjecting a specific set of people to be denigrated and marginalized,” Hawaii Lt. Governor Doug Chin said in an interview.
The Supreme Court on Dec. 4 signaled it may lean toward backing Trump when it granted the administration’s request to let the ban go into full effect while legal challenges played out.
In another immigration-related case, the justices on April 17 invalidated a provision in a US law requiring deportation of immigrants convicted of certain crimes of violence. Trump’s administration and the prior Obama administration had defended the provision.
'Politically correct'
Trump has said the travel ban is needed to protect the US from terrorism by militants. Just before the latest ban was announced, Trump wrote on Twitter that the restrictions “should be far larger, tougher and more specific — but stupidly that would not be politically correct!“
The challengers have argued the policy was motivated by Trump’s enmity toward Muslims, pressing that point in lower courts with some success by citing statements he made as a candidate and as president. As a candidate, Trump promised “a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States.”
The Justice Department argues Trump’s statements as a candidate carry no weight because he was not yet president. The policy’s challengers also point to views he has expressed as president, including his retweets in November of anti-Muslim videos posted by a far-right British political figure.
In a court filing last week, US Solicitor General Noel Francisco, representing Trump in court, said those retweets “do not address the meaning” of the travel ban policy.
Francisco cited Trump statements complimentary toward Muslims and Islam, including in a May 2017 speech in Saudi Arabia.
In defending the ban, the administration has pointed to a waiver provision allowing people from targeted countries to seek entry if they meet certain criteria. The State Department said that as of last month 375 waivers to the travel ban had been granted since the policy went into effect on Dec 8.