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Obama 'couldn't be prouder' of Rice

President Obama offered praise for his embattled and "extraordinary" ambassador to the U.N. on Wednesday. 

"Susan Rice is extraordinary. I couldn't be prouder of the job she's done," Obama said shortly before he was poised to meet with his Cabinet.

The room — which included Secretary of State Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonThe Memo: Some Democrats worry rising crime will cost them The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Democrats await Manchin decision on voting rights bill Supreme Court battle could wreak havoc with Biden's 2020 agenda MORE, seated next to the president — erupted in applause after the president made the statement. Rice has been widely rumored as a top candidate to replace Clinton, who is resigning at the end of the president's first term.

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Rice has come under fire from congressional Republicans for interviews she gave shortly after the Sept. 11 terrorist attack on a U.S. facility in Benghazi, Libya. In her initial statements, Rice tied the violence, which left four Americans dead, to protests over an anti-Islam YouTube video.

Rice said Tuesday that she had been wrong about the cause of the violence, but was relying on talking points provided by the intelligence community and did not intend to mislead the public. But some high-level Senate Republicans, including John McCainJohn Sidney McCainGOP group launches million ad campaign pressing Kelly on filibuster Heatwaves don't lie: Telling the truth about climate change Overnight Energy: Lake Mead's decline points to scary water future in West | White House leads opposition to raising gas tax | Biden taps ex-New Mexico lawmaker for USDA post MORE (Ariz.) and Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamThe Hill's Equilibrium — Presented by NextEra Energy — Tasmanian devil wipes out penguin population The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Biden support, gas tax questions remain on infrastructure This week: Senate set for voting rights fight MORE (S.C.), said that after meeting with Rice on Tuesday, they remained skeptical of her explanation and would not likely support her potential nomination as secretary of State.

On Wednesday, Rice returned to Capitol Hill for additional meetings, including an almost two-hour session with Sen. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsPelosi quashes reports on Jan. 6 select committee White House advisers huddle with Senate moderates on infrastructure Supreme Court battle could wreak havoc with Biden's 2020 agenda MORE (R-Maine). After that meeting, Collins also expressed concerns about Rice's handling of the Benghazi attack.

“I continue to be troubled by the fact that the UN ambassador decided to play what was essentially a political role at the height of a contentious presidential election ... by agreeing to go on the Sunday shows to present the administration's position,” the top Republican on the Homeland Security Committee said.

Obama has been a vocal supporter of Rice, saying in a press conference earlier this month that she "had nothing to do with Benghazi" and that Republicans were picking on her because they saw her as an "easy target." The president also challenged GOP lawmakers to "go after me" instead.

"For them to go after a U.N. ambassador who had nothing to do with Benghazi and was simply making a presentation based on intelligence that she had received, and to besmirch her reputation, is outrageous," Obama said.