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Congress: The Rice fight

The Washington Post: “What was supposed to be a make-nice meeting on Tuesday seemed only to make things more contentious between the White House and Senate Republicans over U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice’s comments following the Sept. 11 attack on the U.S. mission in Benghazi, Libya… ‘Bottom line, I’m more disturbed now than I was before,’ said Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (S.C.).

Graham and Kelly Ayotte would place a hold on a Susan Rice nomination to be secretary of state, aides to the senators told NBC News yesterday.

“Following a rocky meeting with her strongest Republican critics in the Senate on Tuesday, U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice plans to meet with two more Republican senators on Wednesday,” National Journal writes. “Rice will sit with Sens. Susan Collins of Maine and Bob Corker of Tennessee on Wednesday. Corker is next in line to be ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.”

AP: “Senate Democrats rallied to U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice's defense as Republicans said they were even more troubled by her account of the deadly attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, and signaled they would try to scuttle her nomination if President Barack Obama tapped her as the next secretary of state.”

Majority Leader Harry Reid said: "The personal attacks against Ambassador Rice by certain Republican senators have been outrageous and utterly unmoored from facts and reality,"

And this from the bottom of the story: “In a statement late Tuesday, McCain, Graham and Ayotte said Morell told them the FBI had removed references to al-Qaida in the talking points to prevent compromising ongoing investigations. Later in the day, the three senators said the CIA contacted them to say Morell misspoke and the CIA had deleted the references.”

The Boston Globe: “Rice’s unusual visit to Capitol Hill — typically only nominees meet privately with lawmakers — reflects the Obama administration’s campaign for the current front-runner to replace Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton against some strenuous GOP opposition.”

As we’ve noted on First Read, Politico writes, “Sen. John McCain renewed his attacks on U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice on Tuesday, but he’s gone soft on Hillary.” It adds, “McCain, a leading voice on defense and foreign policy matters, has spent weeks belittling Rice as ‘not very bright,’ incompetent and ‘not qualified’ to succeed Clinton as secretary of state… But the Arizona Republican has largely spared Clinton from any criticism over the Sept. 11 Benghazi assault that killed Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans. When Clinton tried to fall on her sword, saying she alone was responsible for diplomatic security, McCain wouldn’t have it. He called Clinton’s act ‘laudable’ but was adamant that the buck stops with President Barack Obama and that he would try to block Rice’s possible nomination as the nation’s top diplomat.”

More: “Asked pointedly why he hasn’t been as critical of Clinton, McCain did not directly mention the secretary, who has decided against staying on for a second term.” He said: “I’ve said it continuously that the State Department has responsibility. I have been very critical of the State Department and their actions. I’ve been critical of everybody’s actions.”