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Clinton Confirmation: Explaining the 'No's

Hillary Rodham Clinton was confirmed as the new Secretary of State by a 94 to 2 vote today, a tally that -- of course -- prompts the question: Who voted "no"?

The answer: Sens. David Vitter (R-La.) and Jim DeMint (R-S.C.).

Let's unpack the reasoning behind the "no" votes.

First, Vitter.

The official statement from the Senator said that while Clinton was "smart" and "capable," Vitter cast a "no" vote for one major reason; "I believe President Clinton's business and foundation dealings are a multi-million dollar minefield of conflicts of interest," he said. "And this could produce explosions at any minute, particularly concerning the Middle East where we least need them."

The unofficial reason for the vote? The freshman Senator is preparing to run for re-election in 2010 despite revelations last year that his name turned up in the records of the "D.C. Madam". Given those problems and talk of a primary challenge from his ideological right, Vitter's vote against Clinton is a clear signal to conservatives in the state: "I am still one of you."

Will it work? Maybe. Vitter has made LOTS of enemies during his rapid rise from the state House to the U.S. Senate, and politicians have a keen sense for when blood is in the water. The vote against Clinton isn't likely to dissuade these ambitious pols from considering a run against Vitter.

DeMint's motivations are slightly more difficult to grasp.

Elected in 2004, DeMint has emerged as one of the leading conservative voices in the chamber -- scoring the most conservative voting record (as calculated by National Journal) in 2006 and 2007.

DeMint's hardline conservatism has won him national admirers and his reputation in conservative circles is sure to grow with this vote. While we know and like DeMint, even his most loyal supporters would say he would be hard-pressed to run nationally any time soon. But the South Carolina Senator is clearly positioning himself for a major role in the ongoing re-making of the Republican party.

What about Texas Sen. John Cornyn, the man who held up the vote on Clinton's confirmation seeking more transparency for the Clinton Foundation? He cast a vote in Clinton's favor, but in his remarks on the floor Cornyn said: "If we're going to restore trust between the American people and their government we need to be careful that the reality matches the rhetoric."

Most Republicans -- Cornyn included -- recognized that it would be hard to justify a vote against Clinton given her resume and qualifications. But, the statement of Cornyn and the "no" votes of Vitter and DeMint should serve as a reminder for everyone watching Washington that partisan politics is always a part of the equation.

By Chris Cillizza  |  January 21, 2009; 5:55 PM ET
Categories:  Senate , White House  
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It definitely is a symbolic gesture. For more on my thoughts check out

She's going to be great.

Posted by: readingpulitzerdotcom | January 22, 2009 7:17 PM | Report abuse

Great start to the most ethical (self-proclaimed) administration in history.

A tax cheat as head of treasury and irs. He will help solve the nation's economic problems. If only he could understand TurboTax. Where is the Joe the Plumber treatment or are they sick of going through garbage. Of course you need to scrutinize a guy who did an interview more than the "One's" cabinet picks.

Do we even need to go into Hill and Bill C. carrying over their conflict of interests from their white house days.

Posted by: leapin | January 22, 2009 3:03 PM | Report abuse

Discussing why DeMint voted no without mentioning the reason he gave for the vote? Carrying deconstruction too far I think.

Posted by: newageblues | January 22, 2009 3:01 PM | Report abuse

Demint is positioning himself for the new republican party? Is the new party going right of the current one? Because I sure can't see anything new about demint's grandstanding.

Posted by: Ami_Blue1 | January 22, 2009 1:35 PM | Report abuse

The comments from the Liberals are hilarious! 98% approval, and they whine about the two who voted against Hillary. I look forward to her time as SOS. I can hardly wait for Bill to begin entertaining us with his "deals". Maybe that will make Obama sorry he did not choose Biden, that would have been just as funny.

Posted by: Shirl1 | January 22, 2009 9:59 AM | Report abuse

Vitter votes no. DeMint votes no.


Vitter has been cranky since being caught rolling around a DC hotel room floor wearing only in a diaper and being spanked by a prostitute.

Enough said.

DeMint. As 99% of the country (including the brain dead voters of SC) have no idea who DeMint is, let alone give a rats arse. The no vote is his 15 minutes of fame.

You can go now Mr. DeMint.

Grand Old Party indeed.....LOL!

Posted by: dem4life1 | January 22, 2009 5:42 AM | Report abuse

Senator Clinton voted against all but the least contentious Bush nominees. In some cases she was the ONLY Senator voting against. Apparently, the standard in which she believes is that if you disagree with the President you vote against his nominees. Well, she should be grateful that Republicans hold to a more constitutional standard.

Posted by: qlangley | January 22, 2009 5:04 AM | Report abuse




As I have written about in this space, it goes much, much further that just surveillance. An "American Gestapo" has ruined untold thousands of lives, contributed to the decimation of the economy, and has TORTURED American citizens with radiation weaponry and devices that the government now confirms are being placed in the hands of local law enforcement nationwide.

Keith, if you are reading this, please read the story linked below, updated last week but originally reported last July on my blog site.

Give me a call. I tried to tell you that day at 30 ROCK that you were a fellow victim. You wouldn't -- or couldn't? -- listen that day. Now read this:

OR (if link is corrupted):

And Chris: Welcome to my world. You've been a "target" too. Who do you think may have been calling you "Chrissie" in all those rude posts?

Posted by: scrivener50 | January 22, 2009 3:12 AM | Report abuse


The last two comments were out of bounds.

I'm a liberal Democrat and very much in favor of the Clinton appointment.

Still, I'm going to defend deMint and Vitter. One of the problems of the last 8 years was that whenever Democrats tried to hold up nominations of people they thought were problematic (on various grounds), Republicans instantly labeled them "obstructionist" and started throwing around wild accusations of partisanship that were themselves really partisan.

I don't think that congress has the obligation to rubber stamp everything the president does. If you object to someone, say you object and vote no. Doing so is not overly partisan.

Making statements that assume any white GOP southerner is a racist is overly partisan.

Overall, I think GOP senators have taken a very bipartisan approach to this nomination. They raised a couple of minor objections and had a quick vote where the overwhelming majority of them voted in favor. We don't need every vote to be unanimous. They did all that Obama could reasonably ask of them.

Posted by: jeffreyclarke | January 22, 2009 2:34 AM | Report abuse

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Posted by: kylewu86 | January 22, 2009 2:19 AM | Report abuse

Big John Cornyn has done his best to fill the slimy shoes of his predecessor, Phil Gramm. Someone's got to claim the whites only, pointed-hood, flat-earth creationists.

Posted by: georgepwebster | January 22, 2009 2:05 AM | Report abuse

Notice what states the two "NO" voters in the Senate are from: SOUTH CAROLINA and LOUISIANA.

The Republican Party of Lincoln is now the RepubliKKKan Party of Chip Saltsman.

Posted by: HughBriss | January 22, 2009 1:18 AM | Report abuse

eaaustin wrote:
Is the GOP supporting Limbaugh's desire to see our new government fail??? Scary thought......

As a matter of fact they still take their orders from Limbaugh and Hannity and Rove.
This is behind the most reactionary and obstructionist ones behavior.
They obviously are ignoring the will of people and their expressed message to work together and chuck the ideology.
They are listening to the likes of Limbaugh who tells them they better be partisan and hateful. Cause problems and keep the congress and senate from doing the people's will and working for the good of the country over party.
Unfortunately, these obstructionists will not let go of ideology and think the road to redemption lays in moving even further right (if it is possible to move any more right) and behave like children throwing a tantrum. They are not ready to put their childish behavior or things away as the President has instructed.
Maybe they need to go back to the sandbox and let the adults get about the business of governing the country.

Posted by: vwcat | January 22, 2009 12:34 AM | Report abuse

Let me get this straight... Clinton was confirmed by 98% of the vote. That's pretty much everybody voted for her, and you choose to argue that it was partisan politics that didn't get her 100% of the vote?


Posted by: Ombudsman1

Traditionally, senators get 100% when being confirmed for cabinet positions (judgeships too, I think, but don't quote me of that one), so any "no" votes are a big deal.

The senate actually prides itself on being a country club, where "membership has its privileges" - one of which being this deferring to former members on nominations. That said, you are probably correct about Clinton - she's just too much of an issue for business as usual. Had they passed her with the usual 100%, there would have been a lot of anger in the GOP base. Still, even if SOMEBODY had to bite the bullet and vote against her, it's interesting to see just who that somebody was, and why.

Posted by: dj333 | January 21, 2009 11:55 PM | Report abuse

the argument that Dems didn't like her is counterfactual- she got the same amount of primary votes as Barak did. He played the delegate game better- winning delegates in caucuses such as Wyoming, where 5100 people voted, and Alaska, where 9000 people voted and with overwhelming majorities in states where the only Democrats were African American or college students, such as Alabama, Mississippi and Georgia. Very politically smart- but just as many people voted against him as her in the primaries.

Posted by: nycLeon | January 21, 2009 10:58 PM | Report abuse

Good to see Lord Cheney being evicted, See a very funny Video of Cheney leaving the WhiteHouse.

Posted by: pastor123 | January 21, 2009 10:30 PM | Report abuse

Good olde Diaper Dan!

Posted by: edlharris | January 21, 2009 10:22 PM | Report abuse

Let me get this straight... Clinton was confirmed by 98% of the vote. That's pretty much everybody voted for her, and you choose to argue that it was partisan politics that didn't get her 100% of the vote?


Remember, Hillary Clinton is a controversial figure, and didn't win the Democratic nomination primarily because she wasn't likable by *Democratic* voters. She would be President of the United States right now *except her own party didn't like her*. Think about that for a minute.

Somehow this is a partisan issue?

Is this what passes for intelligent analysis in the Washington Post today?

Posted by: Ombudsman1 | January 21, 2009 10:12 PM | Report abuse

Sen. DeMint pointed out in his floor speech today that Sen. Clinton was a qualified candidate and he did not want to keep her from getting an up or down vote so he voted yes in the committee vote. He cited the pro-choice position of both Sen. Clinton and President Obama's "unrestricted abortion" stance that would contradict his pro life beliefs for his no vote. He also expressed concerns about perceived conflicts between the Clinton foundation might have with foreign governments trying to influence US policy. Unlike Cornyn, DeMint sounded credible and sincere.

Posted by: rdklingus | January 21, 2009 10:03 PM | Report abuse

Vitter the prostitute patron taking a moral stand on anything? That's rich.

Posted by: hairguy01 | January 21, 2009 9:29 PM | Report abuse

What was the cofimation vote for Condeleza Rice? Surely there where more than 2.votes against her, and surely there was not any outrage or analysis by the Washington. Post and its loyal minions.

Posted by: cummije5 | January 21, 2009 9:11 PM | Report abuse

Is the GOP supporting Limbaugh's desire to see our new government fail??? Scary thought......

Posted by: aeaustin | January 21, 2009 9:03 PM | Report abuse

John1263 wrote, "If there is one thing that conservatives hate it is a successful capable intelligent woman."


Posted by: officermancuso | January 21, 2009 8:54 PM | Report abuse

The fact is if Senator Clinton was a prostitute, Sen. David Vitter would have voted for her!!!

Hillary Rodham Clinton is an EXCELLENT choice for Secretary of State...

The only women Vitter's likes are the ones on their back!!!

Posted by: WVUWEIRTON | January 21, 2009 8:48 PM | Report abuse

Ah, a Louisiana politician positioning himself as half of the two per cent of the United States Senate supposedly bold enough to defend political integrity against the temptations of filthy lucre. I wonder if he cross-dresses, too.

Posted by: officermancuso | January 21, 2009 8:43 PM | Report abuse

Very surprised that only two pubbies voted no. If there is one thing that conservatives hate it is a successful capable intelligent woman. And of all the women who fit that description the one they hate most is Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Conservatives seem to like their women with lots of cheesey make-up, in heels, and dumb as a post - you know - like palin, or kkkoulter.

It must be clear to even most of the hard right that they are facing a juggernaut, and that there collosal incompetence has made a real carp pile of the nation. Bets for them to cooperate if they wish to stand a chance of re-election in 2010.

Posted by: John1263 | January 21, 2009 8:33 PM | Report abuse

Like Vitter matters? This guy lost any respect the minute he got caught in the whole prostitute thing. Furthermore, the consumate "john" Vitter is def. playing the partisan game. He will vote against any Democrat based bill.

Cornyn had a very valid point. The Dem's would be quick to bring up the same request for a bit more time if it was a Republican in the same position. I would want the senate to make sure that our foreign policy is not being open to the highest donor. In the end, I don't think he is being partisan at all. In fact, the senate did their job this time.

I don't know much about DeMint, but I do hope he votes for what makes sense in the future.

In the end both Vitter and Cornyn said that this vote would be a breeze last week.

Posted by: chefra | January 21, 2009 7:51 PM | Report abuse

VinceDC at 7:06pm has it exactly right

Posted by: simpleton1 | January 21, 2009 7:21 PM | Report abuse

Vitter, with his record and the political atmosphere of Louisiana, is concerned about conflict of interest? Absurd. And DeMint is the classic knee-jerk reactionary, willing to disparage anyone with more talent or integrity.

Posted by: lowercaselarry | January 21, 2009 7:20 PM | Report abuse

94-2 & the column is about the 2. Great journalism! Vitter as the keeper of right and wrong is funny.

Posted by: bj1123 | January 21, 2009 7:19 PM | Report abuse

Wow. By merely pointing-out that Sen. Vitter has a very disagreeable personality, has been a purveyor of prostitutes, and suffers from a high level of hypocrisy, my comments were apparently filtered-out. Whatever.

In any case, as a Louisiana voter, I'll be gritting my teeth until the day I can help vote this embarrassing person out of office.

Posted by: JoeMc | January 21, 2009 7:18 PM | Report abuse

I don't see that 2 no votes are worthy of any discussion. If that's partisanship rearing its head, it's much like the Palin fantasies regarding Putin rearing his head over Alaska.

Posted by: optimyst | January 21, 2009 7:17 PM | Report abuse

DeMint = freedom fighter? Too funny!!!

Posted by: jasperanselm | January 21, 2009 7:15 PM | Report abuse

While the nation can, and should, rejoice at George Bush's departure from the scene, Texas Senator Cornyn sadly remains. Vain, egotistical and ever-political, this man eagerly operates from the pockets of the many lobbyists who seek him out.

But that on the first day of a new Administration, he finds it necessary to delay the confirmation of the Secretary of State, in order to get a little press and to score a point with base Conservatives is beyond the pale. How lame. How arrogant. How so against the grain of people who expect their elected officials to once and for all put the nation first and their self-aggrandizement last.

Posted by: joachim1 | January 21, 2009 7:15 PM | Report abuse

DeMint's "no" vote in the full Senate is particularly puzzling given that he voted "yes" out of committee (he and Vitter both serve on Foreign Relations). Vitter voted no both times, so at least he's consistent. What new information came out between the committee vote and the full Senate vote that could explain DeMint's change of heart?

Posted by: BlueOx | January 21, 2009 7:14 PM | Report abuse

The reasons to vote "No" on Hillary Clinton are: That, she has lied about her involvement with foreign nations--especially the Bosnia prevarications; mocked former President-elect Obama's ideas; and has far too many ties to former President Clinton's donors. Senator Clinton is changes with what is useful to her purposes and it is distressing to watch the Senate "cave".

I expected Senator Kerry to vote "No" and was disappointed that he voted "Yes".

Posted by: MiriyamGevirtz | January 21, 2009 7:12 PM | Report abuse

Democrats are searching for a wise and benevolent king who will lead the country to peace and prosperity. They think they found one in Obama. Republicans are searching for a freedom fighter who will depose the king and free the people from his despotic rule. Perhaps they've found one in DeMint.

Posted by: Rational4 | January 21, 2009 7:10 PM | Report abuse

How about just general dickishness on the part of Conryn and DeMint?

Posted by: VinceDC | January 21, 2009 7:06 PM | Report abuse

I trust that if and when Jeb Bush wants to run for any federal office, that Sen Vitter and Sen DeMint will demand total transparency in the donations given to his father's library, right?

Oh wait.....he didn't expose diddly squat when Dubya ran for president.

Ah, Republican double standards, used for political pandering.

It has always been so.

Posted by: auntmo9990 | January 21, 2009 6:41 PM | Report abuse

Heartening for Obama to see the vast bipartisan support for Hillary and the end to GOP obstructionism - at least for this day. Getting Geithner and Holder in the cabinet is the new priority, and don;'t be surprised if the White House is open to compromise in exchange for quick confirmations.

Posted by: parkerfl1 | January 21, 2009 6:11 PM | Report abuse

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