Rice meets again with Republican critics on the Hill

 Republican Sens. Kelly Ayotte, John McCain and Lindsey Graham met with Rice Tuesday. Republican Sens. Kelly Ayotte, John McCain and Lindsey Graham met with Rice Tuesday. Susan Walsh/AP
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.

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.

“She always delivers the party line, the company line, whatever the talking points are,” Corker said, according to the Associated Press. “I think most of us hold the secretary of State and secretary of Treasury to a whole different level. We understand that they're going to support the administration, but we also want to know that they are independent enough, when administration is off-base, that they are putting pressure. I think that's what worries me most about Rice."

Rice has been widely reported as President Obama's top choice for secretary of state, and the president has fiercely defended her amid a firestorm of criticism over her statements explaining the Sept. 11 terrorist attack in Libya.

After their meeting with Rice, Republican Sens. John McCain, Lindsey Graham and Kelly Ayotte said they were more disturbed than they were before the meeting. Ayotte said on CBS that she would place a hold on the nomination if Rice were tapped for secretary of State.

“We are significantly troubled by many of the answers that we got and some that we didn't get concerning evidence that was overwhelming leading up to the attack on our consulate,” McCain said after the morning meeting with Rice.

On Tuesday, the White House and several Democrats on the Hill defended Rice against what they said was unfair criticism.

“There are no unanswered questions about Ambassador Rice's appearance on Sunday shows and the talking points that she used for those appearances that were provided by the intelligence community,” White House spokesman Jay Carney said. “Those questions have been answered.”

Further, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., called the criticism “outrageous,” saying the real questions that need answering surround how to prevent any further attacks on diplomats abroad.

“The personal attacks against Ambassador Rice by certain Republican senators have been outrageous and utterly unmoored from facts and reality,” Reid said on Tuesday, according to AP.

Following her meeting with the three senators of Tuesday, Rice also sat down with retiring Sen. Joe Lieberman, the chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.

If Rice were to be nominated as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s successor, she would only need five Republicans to reach 60 votes and cloture for the nomination.
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