WASHINGTON — A moderate Republican senator crucial to any White House hopes of getting U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice confirmed as secretary of state said Wednesday that there are still lingering unanswered questions about the deadly Sept. 11 attack in Libya.
Emerging from a 95-minute, closed-door meeting with Rice, Sen. Susan Collins of Maine said she would need more information before she could consider backing the ambassador if President Barack Obama tapped her to succeed Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.
At issue is Rice’s much-maligned explanation for the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi that killed U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans. In a series of talk show appearances, Rice blamed the attack on a spontaneous demonstration to an anti-Muslim video rather than terrorism.
“I still have many questions that remain unanswered,” Collins told reporters after the meeting. “I continue to be troubled by the fact that the U.N. ambassador decided to play what was essentially a political role at the height of the contentious presidential election campaign by agreeing to go on the Sunday shows to present the administration’s position.”
Collins stopped short of saying she would try to block a nomination as Sens. Lindsey Graham and Kelly Ayotte have said they would do.
But in a clear message to the White House, Collins said that Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry, D-Mass., would have a smooth path to confirmation if Obama chose him over Rice for the State Department job.
The meeting with Collins — and one with Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn. — marked the second straight day of private sessions for Rice as she tries to quell the uproar over her initial assessment of the Benghazi raid.
Corker is in line to become the top Republican on the Foreign Relations Committee.