Uphill battle for Rice to replace Clinton at State

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice faces a steep climb to win Senate confirmation to succeed Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonO’Malley tells Dems not to fear Trump FBI informant gathered years of evidence on Russian push for US nuclear fuel deals, including Uranium One, memos show Pelosi blasts California Republicans for supporting tax bill MORE as secretary of State. 

Several Republican senators on Tuesday said they would oppose Rice’s nomination, suggesting her path to 60 votes could be rocky.

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The reaction was swift from Republicans, who have singled out Rice for criticism after she publicly linked the terrorist attack that killed the U.S. ambassador and three other Americans in Benghazi, Libya, to a protest over an anti-Islam video.

“I think it’s a huge, huge issue for her,” Sen. Jon Kyl (Ariz.), the second-ranking Republican in the Senate, told reporters outside his office.

Kyl suggested that Kerry, who is widely believed to want the job, would be a safe choice.

“I’d rather have John KerryJohn Forbes KerryTrump's dangerous Guantánamo fixation will fuel fire for terrorists Tech beefs up lobbying amid Russia scrutiny Overnight Tech: Senate Dems want FCC chief recused from Sinclair merger | Tech rallies on Capitol Hill for DACA | Facebook beefs up lobbying ranks MORE. I think he’s well-positioned. He’s experienced. I think he’d take the job and he’s not tainted with the kind of things that I think would be a problem for Ambassador Rice.”


Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainTrump's dangerous Guantánamo fixation will fuel fire for terrorists Tech beefs up lobbying amid Russia scrutiny Ad encourages GOP senator to vote 'no' on tax bill MORE (Ariz.), the top Republican on the Armed Services Committee, said Tuesday he would be “adamantly opposed” to Rice’s nomination and would do “everything I can to keep her from getting confirmed.”

Sen. John BarrassoJohn Anthony BarrassoPruitt to testify on EPA agenda at House, Senate hearings Overnight Energy: Senate confirms top EPA air regulator | Feds to roll back emissions rule for big trucks | Defense bill mandates climate study Senate confirms top air regulator at EPA MORE (Wyo.), the chairman of the conservative Republican Policy Committee and a member of the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee, told Fox News on Tuesday that Kerry “would likely be easily confirmed in the Senate.” 

“They are also mentioning Susan Rice as somebody for that position; to me she has been disqualified — and actually disqualified herself — by the statements she made five days after the attack.”

A number of other Republicans on the Foreign Affairs panel raised questions about Rice’s statements, without ruling out voting for her.

Sen. Bob CorkerRobert (Bob) Phillips CorkerBannon: McConnell 'picking up his game' because of our 'insurgent movement' State Dept. spokeswoman acknowledges 'morale issue' The Hill's 12:30 Report MORE (R-Tenn.), next in line to become ranking member, told reporters Rice’s comments on the Benghazi attack were “beyond belief.” Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) told The Hill her remarks “didn’t work out real well.” And Sen. Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioCongress faces growing health care crisis in Puerto Rico The Hill's 12:30 Report Colbert mocks Trump for sipping water during speech on Asia trip MORE (R-Fla.) likewise raised concerns.

“We have a procedure for nominations and we want to give her the full hearing,” Rubio said. “I’m concerned about the fact she went on Sunday shows and said this was the product of a spontaneous uprising, as opposed to a terrorist attack.”

“Obviously there’s concern,” Sen. Jim RischJames (Jim) Elroy RischSenate ethics panel resumes Menendez probe after judge declares mistrial More must be done to protect America's nuclear power plants from cyberattacks Trump feuds endangering tax reform MORE (R-Idaho) told The Hill. “And so before I jump, I want to do more examination.”

Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamAlabama election has GOP racing against the clock Graham on Moore: 'We are about to give away a seat' key to Trump's agenda Tax plans show Congress putting donors over voters MORE (S.C.), the top Republican on the Senate panel that holds the purse strings for the State Department, told CBS’s “Face the Nation” that Rice would have “an incredibly difficult time getting through the Senate.”

“I would not vote for her unless there’s a tremendous opening-up of information explaining herself in a way she has not yet done,” Graham told the Sunday show. “I am not entertaining promoting anybody that I think was involved with the Benghazi debacle.”

Even some Democrats are stopping short of embracing Rice’s rumored candidacy.

“I think there are serious questions about some of those statements, and I think we’ve got to see how this process plays out,” Sen. Jeanne ShaheenCynthia (Jeanne) Jeanne ShaheenQuestions loom over Franken ethics probe State Dept. spokeswoman acknowledges 'morale issue' Democrats scramble to contain Franken fallout  MORE (D-N.H.) told The Hill. “I think we need to see who else is on that list, be open-minded and see what happens.”

Kerry has declined to comment about the rumors.

White House spokesman Jay Carney defended Rice’s statements on Benghazi during Tuesday’s briefing, without commenting on whether she was in the running for the Cabinet post.

“I can tell you that the president believes that Ambassador Rice has done an excellent job and is grateful for her service,” Carney said. “He believes that everyone here working for him has been transparent … in the way that we’ve tried to answer questions about what happened in Benghazi.”

Ironically, said one Democratic foreign-policy expert close to the administration, Rice might have set herself up for the negative attention after raising her public profile “dramatically” over the past year and becoming the administration’s public face on Benghazi. The source said Republicans have locked onto her comments as a way to draw blood over the Benghazi attack as a “hangover from the presidential campaign.”

The source said the president probably sees Rice, who is close to Obama and had until now worked well with both Democrats and Republicans, as an ideal candidate for a second term, when presidents are usually more active on foreign policy and don’t need a high-profile secretary of State. The source added that the lingering tensions over Benghazi could well delay Hillary Clinton’s replacement.

 “My guess is they’ll delay it as long as she can be convinced to stay,” the source said.

 Likewise, Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl LevinCarl LevinA lesson on abuse of power by Obama and his Senate allies President Trump, listen to candidate Trump and keep Volcker Rule Republicans can learn from John McCain’s heroism MORE (D-Mich.) told reporters on Tuesday that Leon Panetta might stay on as secretary of Defense until questions raised by CIA Director David Petraeus’s resignation and the probe into Gen. John Allen are resolved. Levin added that Kerry would make a “fantastic” Defense secretary.

The public skepticism about Rice comes as Republicans have been hitting the administration hard on its response to the Benghazi attack during their first week back in session following Obama’s reelection. House and Senate panels are holding at least four closed briefings and an open hearing this week.

Senate hawks Graham, McCain and Kelly AyotteKelly Ann AyotteExplaining Democratic victories: It’s gun violence, stupid Trump voter fraud panel member fights back against critics Dems plan to make gun control an issue in Nevada MORE (R-N.H.) plan to hold a press conference on the Benghazi attack Wednesday morning. And Rep. Frank WolfFrank WolfTrump, global religious freedom needs US ambassador to lead Bottom Line 10 most expensive House races MORE (R-Va.) on Tuesday called on House Speaker John BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerTrump's pick for Federal Reserve chief is right choice at right time The two-party system is dying — let’s put it out of its misery One year later, neither party can get past last year's election MORE (R-Ohio) to create a select committee with the chairmen and ranking members of the Intelligence, Foreign Affairs, Armed Services, Judiciary and Oversight panels to investigate the terrorist attack in Benghazi and “subsequent revelations.”

“Too many questions remain surrounding the Benghazi attack and response,” Wolf concluded. “The Congress owes it to the families of the victims of this terrorist attack, and the American people, to fully investigate this tragedy.”

— Carlo Muñoz, Alexander Bolton and Jeremy Herb contributed to this report.