Deputy Secretary of State William Burns, left, and Sen. John McCain at the International Institute of Strategic …
McCain, whose term as the ranking member on the Senate Armed Services Committee is ending, wants to join the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Rice, currently ambassador to the United Nations, leads the field of contenders to become the top American diplomat once Clinton leaves.
"Sen. McCain has expressed interest in joining the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, but no final decisions on committee assignments have been made," McCain spokesman Brian Rogers confirmed to Yahoo News. Whether he gets the spot is up to Senate leadership. (The Roll Call newspaper first reported in early December that the Arizona lawmaker sought to join Foreign Relations, while Foreign Policy magazine's The Cable blog cited McCain on Monday as saying it was a done deal.)
McCain has repeatedly blasted Rice over her public comments about the Sept. 11 terrorist attack on the American compound in Benghazi, Libya. (Clinton herself is expected to testify soon before Congress about the assault.)
Obama has made it clear that he won't back down—if, that is, he decides Rice would be the best candidate. Another leading contender is Democratic Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry, who is widely known to want the job. (If Rice gets the nod, however, Kerry would be in the position of shepherding her to confirmation.) Democrats had mostly shrugged off vows by McCain and a handful of other Republicans to block Rice's still-theoretical nomination. But the White House's allies now worry that they may not reach the 60 votes needed for confirmation, citing public statements of concern from Republican Sen. Susan Collins, who was widely seen as a potential supporter.
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- President Barack Obama