Senator John Kerry's confirmation hearing for his new job as Secretary of State is now scheduled for January 24, a week before Secretary of Defense nominee Chuck Hagel confronts the Senate, and — perhaps most contentiously — the day after Hillary Clinton, the outgoing Secretary of State, testifies on the Benghazi attacks. Kerry will face questions from the Committee on Foreign Relations — the same committee he currently heads. (Senator Bob Menendez, already in line to succeed Kerry's chair, will replace Kerry to lead the hearing.)

Kerry's confirmation isn't likely to be that contentious — his nomination resulted from UN Ambassador Susan Rice's formal withdrawal from consideration, which followed months of speculation that Rice had lied about the attacks in Libya in various appearances on Sunday talk shows — but it's going to be viewed in the light of Clinton's Benghazi testimony the day prior. The security meltdown in Benghazi was a huge, public failure for the State Department, and Kerry is almost certainly prepared to answer questions (legitimate or bombastic) on how he'd make sure a similar failure never happens again.

The timing of Kerry's hearing is, however, a boon to Massachusetts Democrats: the special election triggered by Kerry's confirmation is now more likely to fall before the July 4 holiday. (State Republicans had been hoping that a later date, and thus a lower turnout, would provide a tactical advantage to whoever runs on the party ticket.)