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 ClintonSanders to Clinton: 'This is not the kind of rhetoric that we need' Sekulow vows Bidens, Ukraine will be part of Trump impeachment defense Elizabeth Warren: More 'Hillary' than Hillary 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 KerryDemocratic debates are magnet for lobbyists The Memo: Sanders-Warren battle could reshape Democratic primary Bring on the brokered convention 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 McCainSchiff shows clip of McCain in Trump impeachment trial Martha McSally fundraises off 'liberal hack' remark to CNN reporter Meghan McCain blasts NY Times: 'Everyone already knows how much you despise' conservative women 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 BarrassoSchiff sparks blowback with head on a 'pike' line Schiff closes Democrats' impeachment arguments with emotional appeal to remove Trump Advancing a bipartisan conservation legacy 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 CorkerRNC says ex-Trump ambassador nominee's efforts 'to link future contributions to an official action' were 'inappropriate' Lindsey Graham basks in the impeachment spotlight The Hill's 12:30 Report — Presented by Nareit — White House cheers Republicans for storming impeachment hearing 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 RubioCommerce Department withdraws Huawei rule after Pentagon pushback: reports  Veronica Escobar to give Spanish-language response to Trump State of the Union address Senators press DHS over visa approval for Pensacola naval base shooter 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 RischSchiff sparks blowback with head on a 'pike' line Senators ask FDA to crack down on non-dairy milks, cheeses MSNBC's Chris Hayes knocks senators for ducking out of impeachment trial: 'You can resign' MORE (R-Idaho) told The Hill. “And so before I jump, I want to do more examination.”

Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamSchiff sparks blowback with head on a 'pike' line Schiff closes Democrats' impeachment arguments with emotional appeal to remove Trump Democrats feel political momentum swinging to them on impeachment 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 Shaheen2020 forecast: A House switch, a slimmer Senate for GOP — and a bigger win for Trump Lewandowski decides against Senate bid Biden would consider Republican for VP 'but I can't think of one right now' 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 Milton LevinThe Trumpification of the federal courts Global health is the last bastion of bipartisan foreign policy Can the United States Senate rise to the occasion? Probably not 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 AyotteGOP fears Trump backlash in suburbs Trump makes rare trip to Clinton state, hoping to win back New Hampshire Key endorsements: A who's who in early states MORE (R-N.H.) plan to hold a press conference on the Benghazi attack Wednesday morning. And Rep. Frank WolfFrank Rudolph WolfAfrica's gathering storm DOJ opinion will help protect kids from dangers of online gambling Vulnerable Republican keeps focus as Democrats highlight Trump MORE (R-Va.) on Tuesday called on House Speaker John BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerA time for war, a time for peace — and always a time to defend America Esper's chief of staff to depart at end of January Soleimani killing deepens distrust between Trump, Democrats 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.