Political notebook

After sit-down with Rice, Collins voices some reservation

WASHINGTON — A moderate Republican senator, vital to any White House hopes of getting Ambassador Susan Rice confirmed as secretary of state, said Wednesday that she couldn’t back any nomination until more questions are answered about the deadly Sept. 11 attack in Libya and Rice’s State Department role during the 1998 US Embassy bombing in Kenya.

In a fresh suggestion of eroding GOP support for Rice, Senator Susan Collins of Maine emerged from a 90-minute, closed-door meeting with the US ambassador to the United Nations voicing new criticism of her initial account about Libya. Collins also questioned what Rice, the assistant secretary of state for African Affairs in the Clinton administration, knew about requests for enhanced embassy security before the Nairobi truck bombing.

Pressed on how she would vote if President Obama names Rice to succeed Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, Collins said, ‘‘I would need to have additional information before I could support her nomination.’’


At the White House, Obama called Rice ‘‘extraordinary’’ and said he couldn’t be prouder of the job she has done as ambassador. Cabinet members joined Obama in applauding Rice, who attended the meeting. Obama has not named a replacement for Clinton, who has said she intends to step down soon.

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The misgivings from Collins, the top Republican on the Homeland Security Committee, came one day after three other GOP senators said they would try to block Rice’s nomination. John McCain of Arizona, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, and Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire said they were more troubled by Rice’s answers on Libya even though the ambassador conceded that her much-maligned first explanation was wrong.

In an unusual move, Rice and acting CIA Director Michael Morell have held two days of private meetings with Republican senators in hopes of assuaging their concerns. Privately, Senate Republicans said they had hoped the conversations would quiet the criticism as they want to avoid the spectacle of a postelection challenge to a female African-American nominee.

Instead, the sessions have cast further doubt on her chances for the top State Department job and increased the likelihood of a protracted fight if Obama does choose her.

— Associated Press

House names office building near Capitol after Tip O’Neill

WASHINGTON — It’s as if the partisan combatants of present-day Washington, struggling to reach a budget and tax agreement before the end of the year, keep trying to conjure the spirit of an old-fashioned dealmaker.


Two weeks ago, House members planted a tree in honor of the late Speaker Thomas P. “Tip” O’Neill. Wednesday, the House named a government office building near the Capitol after the skilled lawmaker.

Speaker John Boehner and minority leader Nancy Pelosi joined together on the House floor to hail O’Neill’s service, which spanned 34 years, including the 10 years he wielded the gavel. Representatives Ed ward Markey, Michael Capuano, Niki Tsongas, and James P. McGovern, all of Massachusetts, also invoked his memory in brief floor speeches.

“Tip O’Neill was the Albert Einstein of politics,’’ Markey said. “He knew what it took to make this institution work. He knew what it meant to reach across the aisle.’’

The federal office building that will bear O’Neill’s name is currently being renovated. It sits between the Hubert H. Humphrey Building, named for the vice president under president Lyndon B. Johnson, and a building named for President Gerald R. Ford.

— Christopher Rowland

Pentagon gets Senate OK
to invest in green energy

WASHINGTON — The Senate has given the green light to the Pentagon’s investment in green energy.


By a vote of 62-37 on Wednesday, the Senate deleted a provision from the defense bill that would have prohibited the military from spending money on alternative fuels if the cost exceeded traditional fossil fuels such as coal, natural gas, and oil.

The amendment was sponsored by Senator Mark Udall of Colorado, a Democrat.

In May, a sharply divided Senate Armed Services Committee had included the provision in its far-reaching bill that sets Pentagon policy. Republicans such as John McCain and Jim Inhofe had argued that clean energy sources such as biofuels were too expensive as the Pentagon deals with smaller budgets.

— Associated Press