“Kerry gets a pass. He’s as good as confirmed,” said one top GOP strategist. CNN reported on Saturday afternoon that President Obama is planning to nominate Sen. Kerry.

Although sitting senators have long been given deference by their colleagues when nominated for a post requiring Senate approval, Kerry is a particularly divisive figure since his presidential campaign, and has become one of the leading faces of his party’s liberal wing.

But the Rice debacle has sated Republicans’ desire for a high profile post-election win against Obama. And it could clear the way for outgoing Sen. Scott Brown to return to the Senate next year.

“He’s a senator. No one liked Rice and she’s out. And Kerry opens seat for Brown,” the strategist said, noting that Sen John McCain, who is friends with Kerry, could ease his way. “McCain, as a former presidential candidate, will make sure behind scenes that we’re as respectful and deferential to former presidential candidate as we can be.”