Obama taps John Kerry to be Secretary of State

President Barack Obama announces Senator John Kerry as his choice for the next secretary of state on December 21, 2012 in the Roosevelt Room of the White House in Washington, DC. Getty Images

Updated 1:55 p.m. Eastern Time

President Obama announced Friday that he is nominating Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., to replace Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State.

"John's entire life has prepared him for this role," Mr. Obama said in announcing his decision in the Roosevelt Room at the White House Friday afternoon. He was joined by Vice President Joe Biden, Kerry, and Kerry's wife Teresa Heinz Kerry.

Clinton, who is recovering from a concussion and suffering from a flu, was not present. Mr. Obama said she "very much wanted to be here today, but she continues to recuperate."

Kerry, the 2004 Democratic presidential nominee, has widely been seen as the frontrunner for the position since U.N. ambassador Susan Rice withdrew her name from consideration. Rice came under heavy fire from Republican senators for putting forth a flawed explanation of the events in the Sept. 11 consulate attack in Benghazi, Libya in the days after the attack.

Kerry is expected to be confirmed with relative ease in the Senate. The 69-year-old senator is chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and is widely respected in Democratic foreign policy circles. A Vietnam veteran who spoke out against the war upon his return, Kerry was hailed by the president for having "played a central role in every major foreign policy debate" for nearly three decades.

"He is not going to need a lot of on the job training," Mr. Obama said, pointing to Kerry's many connections to world leaders. He called the Massachusetts senator who tapped him to give the keynote speech at the 2004 Democratic National Convention a "great friend" and reference Kerry's role in playing Mitt Romney in presidential debate prep sessions earlier this year.

"Nothing brings two people together better than weeks of debate prep," said the president. Kerry did not speak after Mr. Obama announced the decision.

Clinton plans to leave her post in January. The Secretary of State choice is the first major personnel announcement Mr. Obama has made concerning his second term cabinet.

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

"John Kerry has been tested - in war, in government, and in diplomacy," she said. "Time and again, he has proven his mettle."

After Kerry is confirmed and steps down, Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick will appoint someone to serve in Kerry's seat until a special election is held between 145 and 160 days of Kerry leaving the Senate. Soon-to-be-former Sen. Scott Brown, R-Mass., who lost his seat in November, could run in the special election on the Republican side. Democrats being discussed include Ted Kennedy Jr., Reps. Ed Markey, Michael Capuano and Steve Lynch, and even actor Ben Affleck.

CBS News' Major Garrett and Caroline Horn contributed to this report.

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