It was never all that clear that Sen. John McCain had enough allies to successfully filibuster U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice's potential nomination as Secretary of State, but now we're not even sure McCain has his own vote. On Fox News Sunday, McCain was asked whether Rice could say anything to change his mind about blocking her. "Sure, I give everyone the benefit of explaining their position and the actions that they took," he responded. "I’ll be glad to have the opportunity to discuss these issues with her." And on ABC's This Week, McCain's anti-Rice ally Sen. Lindsey Graham said, "I blame the president above all others." He continued sounding a little less harsh than in previous interviews, saying, "When she comes over, if she does, there will be a lot of questions asked of her about this event and others."
The question, then, as Congress returns and President Obama's cabinet continues to take shape, is not just whether Rice will be nominated, nor whether the questions will be tough, but whether there will be enough tough questioners to actually block her from office. With the strongest critics of Rice easing up, it looks less likely they've convinced enough senators to get
60 41 votes to filibuster her. Why?
Republicans want to pick their battles. GOP leaders still haven't united around blocking Rice's hypothetical nomination, The Associated Press' Anne Flaherty reports. "There's a definite sense within the caucus that you have to be conservative about where you put your firepower... The question is whether the caucus is prepared to filibuster her, and I'm not sure we were," a senior Republican Senate aide told Flaherty.
The Obama administration knows there will eventually be some kind of fight with the Senate over Benghazi. If it's not during Rice's confirmation, then it will happen during the hearing to confirm David Petraeus's successor at the CIA, NBC News' First Read reports. Which helps explain why the White House isn't preparing many backups: The State nomination will go to either Rice or John Kerry, NBC reports. There's no third option.
Democrats are using the fight to highlight the GOP's problems with women. "The shift in the GOP stance on Rice appears to reflect a number of developments, including the Democratic charges of racism and sexism — which come as the Republicans assess their weak showing with women and minorities in general in the November elections," the Christian Science Monitor reports.
Petraeus testified that Rice's talking points were like the CIA's. The shift in tone also has something to do with ex-CIA director David Petraeus's testimony about the CIA talking points on Benghazi Rice was given, the Monitor reports. Republicans are facing increasing backlash from foreign policy analysts, as when Tom Ricks went on Fox News Monday and said the network "hyped" the Benghazi attacks because it was operating as an arm of the Republican Party.