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Cabinet Picks Move Closer to Senate Approval

As a Senate panel heard from attorney general designee Eric Holder, several of Barack Obama's other Cabinet picks continued Thursday to move toward Senate confirmation, with one — Hillary Clinton — getting a committee's backing in her bid to become the next secretary of state.

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee voted 16-1 Thursday to recommend Clinton, paving the way for a full Senate vote some time after Obama takes office next week.

Only Sen. David Vitter (R-LA) voted against Clinton. In a statement, Vitter said the foundation run by Clinton's husband, former President Bill Clinton, was "a multimillion dollar minefield of conflicts of interest."

Shortly after the vote, Hillary Clinton went to the Senate floor to give a farewell speech. She is stepping down as a senator from New York.

"I'm very excited about what can happen in the next four years. There's a lot of work ahead of us, but I know the people in this chamber are more than up to it," she told the Senate.

The foreign relations panel also heard testimony Thursday from Susan Rice, who is Obama's pick for U.N. ambassador. She is not expected to face major opposition.

Also testifying before Senate committees were Janet Napolitano, Obama's pick to become homeland security secretary, and Ken Salazar, chosen to run the Interior Department.

Salazar, in a prepared statement, said he would work "to make sure that we get energy independence, that we take the moon shot to energy we can take and we really set America free."

He said that would entail expanding solar and wind on public and tribal lands and also updating the country's electricity grid. But he added that "we must also make wise use of our conventional natural resources, including coal, oil and natural gas."

Senators pressed Salazar on how he would address ethical lapses that have occurred at the department in recent years. Employees have been accused of rigging bids, partying with oil company employees and exerting political influence on endangered species decisions.

"You now have to go in there and drain the swamp," said Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR).

"Our first and foremost task will be to restore the integrity of the Interior Department," Salazar said.

In prepared testimony, Napolitano said homeland security faced a variety of challenges, including a department that is made up of 40 percent contract employees. She promised to improve agency operations and morale.

From wire reports

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