The Senate Foreign Relations Committee voted Wednesday to confirm Condoleezza Rice as secretary of state after two days of hearings in which she faced strenuous Democratic assaults on the Bush administration's handling of Iraq.
Pending approval by the full Senate, Rice would be the first black woman to hold the job. She was confirmed by a 16-2 vote with Democrats John Kerry of Massachusetts and Barbara Boxer of California voting no.
Other Democrats, including ranking member Joseph Biden of Delaware, had said they were reluctantly voting to elevate Rice to the nation's top diplomatic job. A vote by the full Senate was expected by Thursday.
As the committee voted, Secretary of State Colin Powell bid farewell to his "family" at the State Department.
"You were my troops, you were America's troops," the former Army general said. "You are the carriers of America's values."
He called Rice "a dear friend" and said she would bring "gifted leadership" to the department.
Rice surmounted two days of sometimes contentious questioning -- mostly by Democrats -- on the administration's prosecution of the war.