WASHINGTON — Cheers, a standing ovation, and a gag gift of protective headgear greeted Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton as she returned to work on Monday after a monthlong absence caused first by a stomach virus, then a fall and a concussion, and finally a hospitalization for a blood clot near her brain.
About 75 State Department officials greeted Clinton with a standing ovation as she walked in to the first senior staff meeting she has convened since early December, according to those present.
Deputy Secretary of State Thomas Nides, noting that life in Washington is often a ‘‘contact sport, sometimes even in your own home’’ then presented Clinton with a gift: a regulation white Riddell football helmet emblazoned with the State Department seal, officials said.
She was also given a blue football jersey with ‘‘Clinton’’ and the number 112 — the record-breaking number of countries she has visited since becoming secretary of state — printed on the back.
‘‘She loved it. She thought it was cool. But then being Hillary Clinton, she wanted to get right to business,’’ said a spokeswoman, Victoria Nuland.
Clinton fell ill with a stomach bug after returning from a trip to Europe on Dec. 7. While at home, she fainted and fell and suffered a concussion that was diagnosed by doctors on Dec. 20.
During a follow-up examination, doctors discovered a blood clot in a vein that runs between the skull and the brain behind her right ear and she was admitted to New York-Presbyterian Hospital for treatment with blood thinners. She left the hospital Wednesday.
At Monday’s meeting, Clinton stressed the need for the State Department to implement a review board’s recommendations for improving the security at high-threat diplomatic posts, officials said. Clinton said she wanted to see all 29 of the recommendations from the independent Accountability Review Board in place by the time her successor takes over. Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts has been nominated to replace her.
Clinton also told her staff she would testify before Congress about the report before she leaves office. No date for that testimony has been set and Congress is in recess until Jan. 21, meaning that she may have to stay on at her post for another week or so after Obama’s inauguration on that day. After she testifies, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee would take up Kerry’s nomination.
GOP, Obama no closer to bridging gap on debt limit
WASHINGTON — Battle lines are forming in Congress over President Obama’s proposal to raise the government’s borrowing limit.
The president has warned he will not negotiate over raising the nation’s debt limit, saying ‘‘one thing I will not compromise over is whether or not Congress should pay the tab for a bill they’ve already racked up.’’
The government technically hit its $14.3 trillion borrowing limit on Dec. 31 and the Treasury says it can ward off a government default only until February or March. Some Republican senators have suggested that a default, and even a brief government shutdown, might be necessary to secure deep spending cuts. Over the weekend, Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky sidestepped the question.
“My answer is: Hopefully we don’t need to get to that point,’’ McConnell said on ABC.