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Rice Nomination Heads to Senate Floor for Final Vote

BY Admin  January 19, 2005 at 12:30 PM EDT

The committee passage came after two days of tough questioning on the administration’s handling of the Iraq war.

At Wednesday’s hearing, after Democrats pressed her on whether the reasons for going to war were misleading, Rice acknowledged that “there were some bad decisions” by the administration on Iraq.

Rice said, however, that Saddam Hussein was a dictator who refused to account for his country’s weapons of mass destruction and someone who had to be removed to change the nature of the terror threat in the Middle East.

But Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., who ended up voting against Rice’s nomination, accused Rice of “an unwillingness to give Americans the full story because selling the war was so important to Dr. Rice. That was her job.”

Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., one-time Democratic presidential candidate, was the other committee member to vote against Rice.

Sen. Joseph Biden, D-Del., who said he would vote for Rice’s confirmation but with “frustration and reservation,” accused the administration of shifting its reasons to justify the Iraq war.

He told Rice that acknowledging mistakes, such as the claim that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction, should not be considered “a sign of weakness.”

More than 1,365 members of the U.S. military have died in Iraq since the war began in March 2003.

Rice declined to say when the other 150,000 U.S. troops might return home. “I am really reluctant to try to put a timetable on that, because I think the goal is to get the mission accomplished,” she said Tuesday, “and that means that the Iraqis have to be capable of some things before we lessen our own responsibility.”

She said there are currently more than 120,000 trained Iraqi security forces.

As the committee voted, outgoing Secretary of State Colin Powell bid farewell to his “family” at the State Department.

“You were my troops, you were America’s troops,” the former Army general said, according to the Associated Press. “You are the carriers of America’s values.”

He called Rice, who is currently President Bush’s national security advisor, “a dear friend” and said she would bring “gifted leadership” to the department.