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Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., sits before the committee he has served on for 28 years and led for the past four as he seeks confirmation as U.S. secretary of state, Thursday, Jan. 24, 2013, on Capitol Hill in Washington. Kerry, who is likely to face friendly questioning on a smooth path to approval, is President Barack Obama's choice to succeed Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton who is stepping down after four years as America's top diplomat.
The Senate confirmation process is a minefield for many presidential nominees. But Sen. John Kerry seemed to navigate those waters safely at his confirmation hearing to be secretary of state.

The Massachusetts Democrat was treated gently on Thursday by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee—even by the same Republicans who relentlessly grilled outgoing Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton a day earlier on the administration's handling of the deadly September terrorist attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya.

It doesn't hurt that Kerry—widely scorned by Republicans in 2004 when he was the Democratic presidential nominee— is the panel's present chairman and popular with colleagues of both parties.

"You're ready to go," said Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee, the panel's top-ranking Republican. "My sense is your confirmation will go through very, very quickly."

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., called his fellow Vietnam War veteran "my friend" and told members Kerry's qualifications for the job "are well known to you and all of our colleagues."

It won't be nearly as smooth for President Barack Obama's nominations of former Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel for defense secretary or John Brennan to head the CIA.

Both are sure to face tough questioning from senators— Hagel about past statements on Iran, gays and Israel; Brennan, now the top White House counterterrorism adviser, on the Benghazi attack.

Kerry and the committee members were clearly comfortable with each other.

Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., the incoming chairman, wondered how Kerry would be able to "explain to world leaders how you could have been rooting for the Boston Red Sox instead of what the world knows is the New York Yankees as the team of the world."

Kerry laughed it off.

And the clear affection didn't only flow from the committee to Kerry.

Here's how he kicked off his testimony: "Let me say I've never seen a more distinguished and better looking group of public officials in my life."

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