On Tuesday, the Senate voted to confirm President Joe Biden’s pick of Antony Blinken to the role of secretary of state.
Blinken was confirmed by the Senate on a vote of 78 to 22.
Blinken previously served under President Barack Obama’s administration, from 2009 to 2017, serving as a national security advisor to then-Vice President Biden from 2009 to 2013, before becoming deputy national security advisor. In 2015, Blinken moved on from his role as deputy national security advisor to become the deputy secretary of state.
During a Senate confirmation hearing last Tuesday, Blinken offered a preview of the Biden administration’s foreign policy.
Blinken said he agreed with the outgoing Trump administration’s assessment that China has been committing genocide and human rights abuses against its Uyghur population and other Muslim minority ethnic groups in Xinjiang. Blinken said, “That would be my judgment as well. Forcing men, women and children into concentration camps, trying to in effect re-educate them to be adherents to the Chinese Communist Party, all of that speaks to an effort to commit genocide.”
“Let me just say that I also believe that President Trump was right in taking a tougher approach to China,” Blinken said during the confirmation hearing. “I disagree very much with the way that he went about it in a number of areas, but the basic principle was the right one, and I think that’s actually helpful to our foreign policy.”
While Biden has described plans to return the U.S. to the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), known as the Iran nuclear deal, Blinken said the U.S. is a “long way” from reaching a new deal with Iran. He also said the 2015 agreement would act as “a platform” for a “longer and stronger agreement” to address Iran’s missile program and sponsorship of terrorism and malign activities.
Addressing Russia, Blinken condemned the arrest of Aleksei Navalny, a vocal critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin. Blinken also voiced support for allowing the former Soviet Union vassal state of Georgia to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).
Following the confirmation, Senate Majority Leader Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) tweeted, “We must hold Russia accountable for malicious interference in democracies We must confront China’s economic, political, and human rights abuses We must combat the existential threat of climate change I was proud to confirm Tony Blinken as President Biden’s Secretary of State.”
Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR), one of the senators who opposed Blinken’s confirmation, said, “President Biden gave a gift to Vladimir Putin by unconditionally extending the New START treaty. He also crossed both of our North American neighbors in the span of a week. His decision to kill the Keystone XL pipeline betrayed a steadfast ally, Canada, as well as thousands of American workers who’ve lost jobs. Meanwhile, the president’s decision to suspend vital immigration-enforcement measures betrayed Mexico, which will soon be inundated with Central American caravans headed for our border. Antony Blinken deserves his share of the blame for these diplomatic errors. I did not support his nomination.”