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U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice was applauded during a Cabinet meeting as President Obama lauded her work.

Jacquelyn Martin, Associated Press

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton contends that the embattled Rice, Clinton’s possible replacement, has done a great job.

Manuel Balce Ceneta, Associated Press

Rice fails to win GOP support for second day

  • Article by: ANNE GEARAN
  • Washington Post
  • November 28, 2012 - 9:27 PM

WASHINGTON

The choice of a successor to Hillary Rodham Clinton as secretary of state has turned into an unexpectedly nasty political fight that could cost the White House valuable goodwill with Republicans.

Republican opposition to presumptive front-runner Susan Rice did not fade after the election, as White House officials and her supporters had predicted. Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, did not win any public GOP support after meeting with two Republican senators on Wednesday, her second day of unusual face-to-face sessions intended to blunt critiques of her role in explaining the fatal Sept. 11 terrorist attack in Libya.

Even moderate Republican and onetime Rice supporter Sen. Susan Collins of Maine declined to offer her backing after their 75-minute private session on Wednesday.

"I still have many questions that remain unanswered," said Collins, the ranking Republican on the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, which is investigating the Libya attack.

Rice also met with Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., a senior member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

As in the meetings she had on Tuesday, Rice parsed comments she made on television five days after the attack on a diplomatic post and CIA headquarters in the eastern Libyan city of Benghazi.

Collins told reporters she was "troubled" that Rice had "decided to play what was essentially a political role at the height of a contentious presidential election campaign" by appearing on five political talk shows to present the administration's position.

Speaking later on MSNBC, Collins said Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., would make an excellent secretary of state and would be easily confirmed.

Corker also declined to say whether he would vote to confirm Rice.

President Obama has not told even close aides whether he will select Rice, according to a senior White House official. In a show of support, however, she was present on Wednesday during Obama's first full Cabinet meeting since the election. The president responded to a question about whether lawmakers are "being fair" to Rice by complimenting her as "extraordinary."

"I couldn't be prouder of the job that she's done," he said.

Some Senate Democrats also came to Rice's defense.

"Ambassador Rice is clearly a very strong candidate, and if nominated, I hope we can come together and move the confirmation hearings along swiftly and get past the misguided partisan political attacks on her reputation," said Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York.

Sen. Mary Landrieu of Louisiana said Rice's GOP accusers are "horribly unfair" and completely wrong to accuse her of shading intelligence about the attack to suit political ends.

Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., said Wednesday that his opposition to Rice is based on her U.N. tenure and the Benghazi issue, which he said "may end up being the biggest coverup that we've ever experienced in history."

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