WASHINGTON - The US Senate confirmed Tony Blinken as deputy secretary of state on Tuesday, installing a seasoned insider who has served as a close advisor to President Barack Obama.
Blinken, the outgoing deputy national security advisor, was confirmed on a vote of 55-38, becoming Secretary of State John Kerry's number two.
Blinken endured a confirmation process that included scathing criticism led by hawkish Republican Senator John McCain, who took to the Senate floor to blast him as "unqualified."
McCain argued that Blinken has been "abysmally ignorant, or he's simply not telling the truth," in a series of proclamations of foreign policy achievements, including Obama's responsible ending of the war in Iraq and decimating the Al-Qaeda leadership.
Blinken helped draft the Obama administration's fight against Islamic militants, and reportedly has played a behind-the-scenes role in the Iran nuclear negotiations.
Democrats stressed the need for rapid confirmation of Blinken so Kerry has a fully staffed team as the State Department confronts international and diplomatic challenges.
Highlighting the sensitivity of the nomination, Republican Senator Marco Rubio said last week he would use "every procedural method" at his disposal to slow the process.
But the Democratic leadership was able to force a confirmation vote before the Senate leaves Washington this week for Christmas break.
Kerry earlier this year said Blinken, whose government career began when he joined the State Department in 1993, would bring "deep policy expertise" to the job amid a mountain of global diplomatic challenges.
Blinken, 52, spent part of his childhood in France and speaks fluent French.