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Senate panel unanimously backs Kennedy for Japan post

Caroline Kennedy (C), daughter of former U.S. President John F. Kennedy, prepares to testify at her U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee
Caroline Kennedy (C), daughter of former U.S. President John F. Kennedy, prepares to testify at her U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee unanimously backed Caroline Kennedy, daughter of the late President John F. Kennedy, on Monday as President Barack Obama's next U.S. ambassador to Japan, paving the way for what should be an easy vote in the full Senate.

When that vote might occur was unclear, given the current wrangling in Congress over legislation to keep the government open past midnight, but the lack of objections by the panel showed Kennedy is likely to be confirmed by a wide margin.

The committee had moved up the business meeting where it voted on Kennedy to Monday evening from Tuesday because of the possibility that the federal government would be closed at the day's end.

Kennedy, a lawyer and president of the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation, sailed through a very friendly confirmation hearing earlier this month. Panel members spoke fondly of her father and uncles, who served in the Senate.

Her appointment lends the prestige of a storied political dynasty to the U.S. relationship with Japan, a particularly close and important ally. Many past ambassadors have been well-known political figures, including former Vice President Walter Mondale.

Kennedy, 55, would be the first woman to fill the post. She was an early and prominent supporter of Obama in his initial quest for the presidency in 2008.

Kennedy noted during the confirmation hearing on September 19 that her father had hoped to be the first sitting U.S. president to make a state visit to Japan.

John F. Kennedy, a World War Two veteran who had fought against Japan in the Pacific, was felled by an assassin's bullet when she was a young girl, as was her uncle Robert, a U.S. senator and former attorney general.

(Reporting by Patricia Zengerle; Editing by Eric Beech)

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