The Senate Foreign Relations Committee, giving an early boost to the incoming Bush administration, voted 19-0 Thursday to recommend that the full Senate confirm James A. Baker III as secretary of state.
The full Senate will act on the nomination later, probably next Wednesday.Thursday's committee vote followed two days of hearings in which Baker fielded questions on problem areas around the world and dealt comfortably with foreign policy issues ranging from the momentous to the obscure.
Virtually every member of the committee praised Baker's performance, applauded his appointment by Bush and said his confirmation was assured.
Sen. Paul Sarbanes, D-Md., said he is optimistic Baker will prove an outstanding secretary of state, combining "diplomacy, restraint and carefulness."
Sen. Frank Murkowski, R-Ala., said the unanimous committee vote represents a strong bipartisan approach to the new administration. "This is a pretty good way to start," he said.
"He is very skillful, as he should be, and I'm impressed," said Sen. Nancy Kassebaum, R-Kan., expressing a view many other committee members said they shared.
On Wednesday, the second of two days of testimony, Baker said the United States and the Soviet Union are near agreement on procedures to verify compliance with two long-pending nuclear test ban treaties.
Baker said he understands that verification problems with the 1976 Peaceful Nuclear Explosions Treaty are "completely resolved." He said similar problems with the 1974 nuclear test ban treaty establishing a limit of 150 kilotons on underground tests are "close to being resolved."
He said both pacts will be submitted to the Senate for ratification but offered no timetable.
Baker also suggested that the new Bush administration may raise quotas for refugees because of the increasing numbers of people wanting to come to the United States from the Soviet Union and Southeast Asia.
"We will have to look at the possibility of increasing numbers and of increasing dollars" for the refugee program, Baker said.
Baker said he has reservations about U.S. participation in a scheduled 1991 international human rights conference in Moscow, but he added, "We made a commitment and we plan to keep it" so long as conditions for improvements in Soviet human rights performance are met.