December 17, 2014 / 12:07 AM / 3 years ago

U.S. Senate confirms Obama nominee for senior State Dept post

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Senate confirmed the nomination of Antony Blinken as the country's No. 2 diplomat on Tuesday, as Democrats pushed to approve some of President Barack Obama's choices for government posts before Republicans control Congress next year.

Senators voted 55-38 to approve Blinken to serve as deputy secretary of state, with almost all votes in favor from Democrats.

Blinken, a longtime adviser to Vice President Joe Biden, is currently Obama's deputy national security adviser. Opposition to his confirmation was led by Republican Senator John McCain, a frequent critic of the president's foreign policy.

McCain blasted Blinken as "abysmally ignorant" in a heated speech before the vote. The Arizona lawmaker had delayed Blinken's confirmation process earlier this month, citing sharp disagreement with the nominee's past statements on Iraq.

"This individual has actually been dangerous to America and to the young men and women who are fighting and serving it," said the veteran senator, who will be chairman of the Armed Services Committee in the new Republican-led Senate.

Democratic Senator Robert Menendez, the current chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, defended Blinken as eminently qualified. Blinken's resume also includes time as a senior foreign relations committee staff member.

The Senate later confirmed by voice vote Nicholas Rasmussen to be Director of the National Counterterrorism Center, Office of the Director of National Intelligence.

Reporting by Patricia Zengerle; Editing by Cynthia Osterman and Eric Walsh

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