U.S. Sen. John Kerry, the Massachusetts Democrat nominated by President Barack Obama to be the next Secretary of State, told lawmakers during his confirmation hearing on Thursday that the nation’s fiscal problems present the greatest challenge to its foreign policy.

He warns that America cannot be a source of strength in the world if it is not strong at home.

“The first priority of business, which will affect my credibility as a diplomat working to help other countries create order, is whether America at last puts its own fiscal house in order,” Kerry said. “I can't emphasize enough how critical this imperative is. … More than ever, foreign policy is economic policy.”

Among the fiscal woes facing America are a series of across-the-board spending cuts known as a "sequester," which is set to take effect on March 1. The sequester would cut some $1.2 trillion over a decade. These budget cuts will be shared between the military and domestic programs. Lawmakers were supposed deal with the sequester at the same time they tackled the fiscal cliff, but they decided to postpone the issue for three months.

“My plea is that we can summon across party lines, without partisan diversions, an economic patriotism which recognizes that American strength and prospects abroad depend on American strength and results at home,” Kerry said. “It is hard to tell the leadership of any number of countries they must get their economic issues resolved if we don't resolve our own.”

Kerry, who spoke before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, which he happens to chair, is expected be confirmed by the Senate. Lawmakers from both sides have expressed their confidence that he is the right man for the job.

Qualified For Secretary Of State

Kerry, a 69-year-old, five-term Massachusetts senator, was passed over for the top diplomat post in 2008, when Obama chose current Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for the job. Kerry’s dream job neared reality when Ambassador Susan Rice, a rumored top choice to replace Clinton, removed her name from the list of those being considered, following backlash from her unintentional relaying of inaccurate information regarding the circumstances surrounding the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, on Sept. 11, 2012.

Kerry, the son of a diplomat and a Vietnam veteran, has traveled the globe throughout his career, and he brings years of foreign policy experience to the table. Clinton told the panel on Thursday that Kerry is the “right choice,” as he will “bring a record of leadership and service that is exemplary.”

If confirmed, Kerry said he looks forward to working closely with committee members, building on Clinton’s work and supporting the president.

Dealing With Iran

While Iran continues to maintain that it is enriching Uranium for peaceful use only, Kerry said he will work to resolve the questions surrounding the Middle Eastern country’s nuclear program.

“Our policy is not containment,” Kerry said. “It is prevention, and the clock is ticking on our efforts to secure responsible compliance. … President Obama has stated again and again he prefers a diplomatic resolution to this challenge, and I will work to give diplomacy every effort to succeed. But no one should mistake our resolve to reduce the nuclear threat.”