Senator John Kerry easily cleared the first hurdle of his confirmation as the next secretary of state Tuesday with a unanimous vote of approval by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Kerry, President Barack Obama's pick to replace Hillary Clinton as the nation's top diplomat, must still be confirmed by a vote of the full Senate later in the day, but that was expected to be a shoo in.

His colleagues on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, which Kerry chairs, gave him a unanimous vote of approval, with Republicans joining Democrats.

Kerry, who did not vote, said he was "humbled" and gratified.

"They've been wonderful, they've been really superb," he said of his colleagues on the committee, adding, "I'm very wistful about it, it's not easy" leaving.