WASHINGTON – The Senate on Thursday agreed to send one of its own, former Sen. John Danforth (search) of Missouri, to the United Nations to serve as the new U.S. ambassador.
Danforth, an Episcopalian priest thrust back into the national spotlight after being chosen to officiate at President Reagan's state funeral, was confirmed by voice vote.
"This is a man of great integrity as well as dedication, compassion, even a dry sense of humor when appropriate," said Sen. Kit Bond, R-Mo., (search) who worked under Danforth when the minister served as Missouri attorney general.
Danforth replaces John Negroponte (search), who was sworn Wednesday as U.S. ambassador to Iraq .
President Bush on Thursday morning called on Senate Foreign Relations chairman Richard Lugar (search), R-Ind., and ranking Democrat Joe Biden, D-Del., (search) to quickly get Danforth confirmed so the U.S. ambassador position won't be empty at the United Nations when the U.S.-led Coalition Provisional Authority turns over political sovereignty to Iraq on June 30.
Bush wants his personal representative at the United Nations not only to deal with Iraq but also to preside over the annual U.N. General Assembly session starting in September.
"We're grateful a leader of his stature is willing to step forward," Lugar said.
Democrats also praised the former GOP senator, who served in the Senate for 18 years and was on Bush's short list as a possible vice presidential choice in 2000.
Biden called him the "ultimate professional diplomat" from his years as minister, U.S. senator and state attorney general.
"He knows how people think and feel and move," Biden said. "But you know what I like the best about Jack Danforth going up there? He will be absolutely straight. ... Jack has the stature to go to the president and say 'Mr. President, I disagree or think you shouldn't or I'd recommend the following.' The president is going to get unvarnished advice."
In the Senate, Danforth, 67, was an ally of the first President Bush. During the Clinton administration, he acted as a special counsel appointed by then-Attorney General Janet Reno. He conducted a 14-month inquiry into the deaths in 1993 of about 80 Branch Davidians in Waco, Texas. His investigation cleared the FBI of wrongdoing.
While in the Senate, he helped lead the confirmation battle for Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas, a former Danforth assistant who was nominated to the high court by the first President Bush. The senator's support was considered crucial in winning confirmation after sexual harassment accusations against Thomas by former aide Anita Hill.
Danforth, a Republican, acquired some diplomatic seasoning as Bush's envoy to Sudan, where he had a role in bringing about recent agreements designed to end a 21-year year civil war.