By Ed O’Keefe
The Washington Post
WASHINGTON — The House of Representatives usually plays little formal role in foreign affairs, but a sizable group of House Republicans has launched a campaign against a high-ranking State Department official over the Sept. 11 attack in Libya.
The fresh GOP criticisms of U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice has angered many Democrats, who say Republicans are making her a scapegoat for the administration’s response to the deadly assault on the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi.
House Democrat James E. Clyburn (S.C.) — the highest-ranking black lawmaker in Congress — has also questioned whether Republicans are singling out Rice, a potential secretary of state nominee, because she is black.
Building on doubts first raised by senior GOP senators, 97 House Republicans co-signed a letter this week warning President Obama that Rice’s public comments following the attack on the mission in Benghazi “caused irreparable damage to her credibility both at home and around the world.”
The members also told Obama that making Rice “the face of U.S. foreign policy” in the coming years as his next secretary of state “would greatly undermine your desire to improve U.S. relations with the world and continue to build trust with the American people.”
“Ambassador Rice is widely viewed as having either willfully or incompetently misled the American public in the Benghazi matter,” the lawmakers wrote. “Her actions plausibly give U.S. allies (and rivals) abroad reason to question U.S. commitment and credibility when needed.”
Obama has not signaled whether he plans to nominate Rice to succeed Hillary Rodham Clinton, who plans to step down in the coming weeks. But he provided a spirited defense of Rice last week after Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) voiced sharp criticism of her actions in the response to Libya.