John Kerry, President Barack Obama’s choice for Secretary of State, will appear today at a confirmation hearing before the Foreign Relations Committee, the panel the Massachusetts Democrat leads.
It would be quite the sight to see chairman Kerry question nominee Kerry, or just gavel the hearing to order before taking a seat at the witness table. That’s not going to happen, obviously, as Kerry’s confirmation hearing will be led by Senator Robert Menendez of New Jersey, who will become committee chairman if Kerry wins Senate confirmation.
Kerry isn’t the first chairman of a Senate committee to appear before the same panel as a Cabinet nominee.
In January 1993, Senator Lloyd Bentsen of Texas was Finance Committee chairman when President-elect Bill Clinton nominated him for Treasury Secretary. Bentsen appeared at a confirmation hearing led by Daniel Patrick Moynihan of New York.
Moynihan said at the hearing that he had “been asked to serve as acting chairman by our chairman, Senator Lloyd Bentsen, who appears before us, of course, as the nominee of the president-elect for the position of the Secretary of the Treasury.” (You can watch that hearing here, courtesy of C-Span’s excellent online video archive.)
In January 1989, former Senator John Tower, a Texas Republican nominated for Defense Secretary by President George H.W. Bush, began his confirmation hearings before the Armed Services Committee, the panel Tower led from 1981 to 1985.
“Senator Tower is well-known to the members of this committee, having served on it with distinction for 20 years, including four years as chairman,” Senator Sam Nunn, the Georgia Democrat who led the committee, said on the first day of Tower’s confirmation hearing.
Despite an auspicious beginning before his former colleagues, Tower had a rocky confirmation process, and the Democratic-led Senate rejected his nomination. (Texas colleague Bentsen was one of just three Democrats who voted for Tower). Dick Cheney became Defense Secretary.