Hil's Grill Expected to Be Relatively Easy

WASHINGTON — Hillary Rodham Clinton has held lengthy private discussions with leaders of the Senate committee reviewing her nomination to be secretary of state and will face a public hearing Tuesday.

Despite initial concerns that former President Bill Clinton's business deals and global charitable endeavors could create problems, lawmakers from both parties do not expect serious objections to the New York senator's confirmation.

The incoming chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts, said Hillary Clinton "will bring her years of experience and acute intellect to her position as America's top diplomat."

The committee plans to vote on the nomination Jan. 15, before the start of the confirmation hearing for Susan Rice, Barack Obama's pick for U.N. ambassador.

Kerry said Wednesday he looked forward to working with the committee's top Republican, Sen. Richard Lugar of Indiana, to "ensure a fair and expeditious confirmation process for these two accomplished nominees."

The timetable for Clinton's confirmation has been closely watched because her departure from the Senate would give New York Gov. David Paterson, a fellow Democrat, the power to appoint her successor. Caroline Kennedy, the scion of a political dynasty, wants the job. Paterson has said he is considering her along with several other candidates.

Clinton has been meeting individually with committee members, in addition to the lengthy discussions with Kerry and Lugar.

Lugar, who hosted Clinton for an hourlong meeting in his office last month, is known for his mild manner and close working relationships with Democrats.

Also in play will be the tradition of respect given to a former colleague. While Republicans did not agree with Clinton on such big-ticket political issues as health care and the economy, most GOP senators believe she worked well with them on day-to-day matters during her tenure as a junior senator.

To clear the way for his wife to take the job, Bill Clinton agreed to several steps designed to make his post-presidential work more open.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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