Senate panel backs Clinton as secretary of state

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Thursday voted overwhelmingly for Hillary Rodham Clinton to become the next US secretary of state, endorsing President-elect Barack Obama's promise to take US foreign policy in a new direction. The action paves way for a full Senate vote after Obama takes office on January 20. Clinton is not expected to hit any major roadblocks, with Republicans and Democrats alike praising her acumen on the issues. But concerns about her husband Bill Clinton's charitable fundraising overseas remains. Sen. David Vitter, who was among several Republicans who raised the issue at her confirmation hearing earlier this week, cast the lone opposing vote. Sen. Jim DeMint, a Republican, said he too remains wary that contributions to the former president's charity could pose conflicts of interest. But, he added, he would not stand in the way of her appointment at this point and noted that Clinton could become one of the best US secretaries of state to date.