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Kerry won’t chair Clinton Benghazi hearing

Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry (D-MA) will not chair Secretary of State Hillary Clinton‘s hearing on the Sept. 11 attack on the U.S. mission in Benghazi, which is expected to take place next week. Kerry is in the unique position of being the chairman of the committee before which he will testify as ...

KAREN BLEIER/AFP/Getty Images
KAREN BLEIER/AFP/Getty Images
KAREN BLEIER/AFP/Getty Images

Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry (D-MA) will not chair Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's hearing on the Sept. 11 attack on the U.S. mission in Benghazi, which is expected to take place next week.

Kerry is in the unique position of being the chairman of the committee before which he will testify as part of his confirmation process to replace Clinton in Foggy Bottom. Although no final dates have been confirmed, Clinton is expected to testify on Benghazi Jan. 22, and Kerry's confirmation hearing is expected to happen as soon as Jan. 23. Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Kerry's presumptive successor as SFRC chairman, is expected to chair both hearings.

"Kerry will not preside over the Benghazi hearing because he doesn't want to put his colleagues in an awkward situation. Also, he already presided over a Benghazi hearing last month," a committee aide told The Cable. "Senator Kerry will remain SFRC chair until he is confirmed."

Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry (D-MA) will not chair Secretary of State Hillary Clinton‘s hearing on the Sept. 11 attack on the U.S. mission in Benghazi, which is expected to take place next week.

Kerry is in the unique position of being the chairman of the committee before which he will testify as part of his confirmation process to replace Clinton in Foggy Bottom. Although no final dates have been confirmed, Clinton is expected to testify on Benghazi Jan. 22, and Kerry’s confirmation hearing is expected to happen as soon as Jan. 23. Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Kerry’s presumptive successor as SFRC chairman, is expected to chair both hearings.

"Kerry will not preside over the Benghazi hearing because he doesn’t want to put his colleagues in an awkward situation. Also, he already presided over a Benghazi hearing last month," a committee aide told The Cable. "Senator Kerry will remain SFRC chair until he is confirmed."

Committee sources told The Cable that Kerry’s decision not to resign as committee chair before he is confirmed is based on two calculations. First of all, he doesn’t want to appear presumptive, just in case he is not confirmed, although he is widely expected to sail through. Secondly, if for some reason he is not confirmed, Kerry would want to retain his committee chairmanship as a fallback plan.

The musical chairs at SFRC have become a complicated dance for the committee staff, some of whom are helping Kerry to prepare for his hearing and some of whom are helping the rest of the committee prepare to vet Kerry. The State Department is also prepping Kerry for his hearing, and the nominee has been spending a lot of time at the State Department for briefings, but his staff is leading the preparations. Menendez’s staff is assisting in the preparation for the Kerry hearing as well, committee sources said.

SFRC ranking Republican Bob Corker (R-TN) said last week he thinks the Clinton hearing will take place on Jan. 22.

"I had some very good conversations with her chief of staff," Corker told MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell Jan. 8. "My sense is, Andrea, that her hearing probably will take place the morning of the 22nd… I think they feel she’s going to be healthy enough to come in that day."

Clinton is preparing for the hearing now. "The secretary is going through all the steps this department is taking to implement the recommendations of the Accountability Review Board," State Department Spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said today.

Over at State, speculation abounds about who Kerry may or may not bring with him if and when he moves over to State. The conventional wisdom is that many officials close to Clinton will depart, but some of them may stay, meaning that Kerry might not bring in as many of his own people as Clinton did back in 2009.

There’s also concern that the White House might try to populate State with current and former NSC officials as a bid to assert more control over State. Clinton had secured 100 percent control over personnel assignments as part of her deal with President Barack Obama when she accepted the secretary of state job. Kerry has no such arrangement.

Josh Rogin covers national security and foreign policy and writes the daily Web column The Cable. His column appears bi-weekly in the print edition of The Washington Post. He can be reached for comments or tips at josh.rogin@foreignpolicy.com.

Previously, Josh covered defense and foreign policy as a staff writer for Congressional Quarterly, writing extensively on Iraq, Afghanistan, Guantánamo Bay, U.S.-Asia relations, defense budgeting and appropriations, and the defense lobbying and contracting industries. Prior to that, he covered military modernization, cyber warfare, space, and missile defense for Federal Computer Week Magazine. He has also served as Pentagon Staff Reporter for the Asahi Shimbun, Japan's leading daily newspaper, in its Washington, D.C., bureau, where he reported on U.S.-Japan relations, Chinese military modernization, the North Korean nuclear crisis, and more.

A graduate of George Washington University's Elliott School of International Affairs, Josh lived in Yokohama, Japan, and studied at Tokyo's Sophia University. He speaks conversational Japanese and has reported from the region. He has also worked at the House International Relations Committee, the Embassy of Japan, and the Brookings Institution.

Josh's reporting has been featured on CNN, MSNBC, C-Span, CBS, ABC, NPR, WTOP, and several other outlets. He was a 2008-2009 National Press Foundation's Paul Miller Washington Reporting Fellow, 2009 military reporting fellow with the Knight Center for Specialized Journalism and the 2011 recipient of the InterAction Award for Excellence in International Reporting. He hails from Philadelphia and lives in Washington, D.C. Twitter: @joshrogin

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