Discuss as:

Obama taps Kerry for Secretary of State

John Kerry, the head of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, is President Obama's pick to replace Hillary Clinton as secretary of state after U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice withdrew from consideration. A Silver and Bronze star recipient, Kerry has played a role in every major foreign policy debate for nearly 30 years. NBC's Andrea Mitchell reports.

Updated 2:20 p.m. -- Saying that his new pick for the nation's top diplomatic job is "not going to need a lot of on-the-job training," President Barack Obama announced Friday his nomination of Senate Foreign Relations Committee head and onetime Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry as the next Secretary of State.

"I think it's fair to say that few individuals know as many presidents and prime ministers or grasp our foreign policies as firmly as John Kerry," Obama said at the announcement at the White House as Kerry stood at his side. "And this makes him a perfect choice to guide American diplomacy in the years ahead."

Kerry, who has been considered the overwhelming frontrunner for the job since U.N. ambassador Susan Rice withdrew herself from consideration, is likely to face few hurdles during his Senate confirmation.

First elected in 1984, Kerry served as a lieutenant in the United States Navy and became a famed demonstrator against the Vietnam War. Since his failed presidential bid in 2004, he has risen to prominence as the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, going on high-profile visits to Afghanistan and Pakistan and helping to negotiate an arms treaty with Russia.

"Having served with valor in Vietnam, he understands that we have a responsibility to use American power wisely, especially our military power," Obama said of Kerry. "And he knows from personal experience that when we send our troops into harm's way, we must give them a sound strategy, clear mission, and the resources that they need to get the job done."

The former presidential nominee also served as Obama's stand-in for Mitt Romney for debate preparation during the 2012 campaign, a role Obama referenced in announcing Kerry's new assignment.

"John, I'm looking forward to working with you instead of debating you," he joked.

J. Scott Applewhite / AP

Senate Foreign Relations Chairman John Kerry, D-Mass., leads a hearing Dec. 20 on the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya.

Rice, the president's reported original pick for the job, faced vehement opposition from some Senate Republicans who questioned information she presented in the immediate wake of the Benghazi consulate attacks in September. Faced with a bruising potential confirmation battle, she withdrew herself from the running for the Secretary of State post on December 13.

Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham, who had been fierce critics of Rice’s potential nomination reacted warmly to the choice of Kerry Friday.  McCain said he has “confidence in his ability to carry out" the job while Graham called Kerry "a solid choice."

If confirmed, Kerry will replace Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who has indicated she will step down from the post early next year.

Clinton was unable to attend the White House announcement, said the president, who noted that she is still recuperating from a reported illness but that she "could not be more excited" about Kerry getting the nod.

In a lengthy written statement, Clinton called Kerry "an excellent choice."

"President Obama and I have often asked Senator Kerry to undertake delicate diplomatic missions and to deliver difficult messages," she said in praising his past diplomatic and political experience. "He has forged strong relationships with leaders around the world.  As I have learned, being able to talk candidly as someone who has won elections and also lost them is an enormous asset when engaging with emerging or fragile democracies."

Assuming Kerry is confirmed and therefore resigns from the United States Senate, Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick will appoint a temporary replacement for Kerry's seat before a special election held between 145 and 160 days from his resignation date.

Republican Sen. Scott Brown, who was defeated in November by Elizabeth Warren, is possible candidate in that special election, while several Massachusetts House members are also eying a run on the Democratic side.