Politics & Government

Panel votes to confirm Locke

WASHINGTON – Gary Locke is feeling confident these days, and for good reason. On Thursday, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee voted unanimously – with no debate – to confirm the former two-term Washington state governor as the next ambassador to China. He hasn’t encountered any opposition since President Barack Obama nominated him for the post in early March.

Before Locke can take the job, the full Senate still must vote on his nomination. But Locke, the U.S. commerce secretary for the past two years, clearly has no worries about the outcome: On Wednesday, he gave a farewell speech to employees at the Commerce Department, thanking them for their accomplishments.

Locke was one of three of the president’s nominees to clear the Foreign Relations Committee: Ryan Crocker won confirmation to be the next ambassador to Afghanistan, and William Burns was approved to be the next deputy secretary of state.

Locke, 61, will replace Jon Huntsman, whose resignation was effective at the end of April. Huntsman, one of the few Republicans to have served in the Obama administration, announced his candidacy for president earlier this week.

Locke, the nation’s first Chinese American governor, is promising to make trade a top priority. When the president nominated him in March, Locke said he’d work hard to open up more Chinese markets for American businesses, as he did while serving as Washington’s governor from 1997 to 2005.

Locke plans to move to Beijing with his wife, Mona, a former television reporter in Seattle, and their three children.