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Inside Politics

Rice confirmed as secretary of state

Ex-national security adviser first black female to hold office

Condoleezza Rice was questioned sharply at times during last week's committee hearing.
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CNN's Joe Johns on the Senate debate over Condoleezza Rice.

CNN's Bill Schneider on the rise of Barbara Boxer.

CNN's Bill Schneider on deep divisions among Americans.
Condoleezza Rice
Barbara Boxer

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Condoleezza Rice won Senate confirmation as secretary of state on Wednesday, after hours of sometimes-bitter debate Tuesday that focused largely on the war in Iraq.

The final vote of the full Senate was 85-13 in favor of the nomination.

Rice, 50, is the first African-American woman and second woman to become secretary of state.

Rice had long been expected to win the GOP-controlled Senate's blessing to succeed Colin Powell as head of the State Department.

Some Democratic senators used Tuesday's debate -- actually, a series of floor speeches -- to blast the Bush administration over the war, saying Rice dodged questions on the issue in her confirmation hearing.

Leading the charge against Rice on Tuesday were Democratic Sens. Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts, Robert Byrd of West Virginia and Barbara Boxer of California.

Boxer, one of two Democrats to vote against Rice's nomination in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said Rice's answers to her questions were "completely nonresponsive" and raised more issues about her credibility than they answered.

"President Bush in his inaugural address talked about bringing freedom to countries that don't have it. He didn't specify how," Boxer said.

But since the human rights group Freedom House lists 49 countries as "not free," she said, "I worry about sending more troops on military missions based on hyped-up rhetoric. And that's why these questions are so important."

GOP's Warner: Attacks 'astonishing'

Democratic leaders forced an extended debate on Rice's nomination in order to express their concerns over prewar claims about Iraq that Sen. Richard Durbin, D-Illinois, said were "just plain wrong, and repeated."

"Dr. Condoleezza Rice was in the room, at the table, when decisions were made, and she has to accept responsibility for what she said," Durbin said.

Sen. John Warner, R-Virginia, defended Rice, calling attacks on her integrity "somewhat astonishing" and noted that many governments had considered Iraq "a grave and gathering threat."

"I do not find any disloyalty, any lack of truthfulness in her remarks publicly throughout this process as it related to the earlier base of knowledge of weapons of mass destruction," said Warner, the chairman of the Armed Services Committee.

Last week, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee endorsed Rice's nomination on a 16-2 vote, with only Boxer and defeated presidential candidate John Kerry opposing it.

Rice is the daughter of a minister from Birmingham, Alabama, entered college at age 15 and earned a doctorate in international affairs by 26. She was a Soviet expert in the first Bush administration and tutored George W. Bush on international policy during the 2000 campaign before becoming his national security adviser.

Other nominees

The Senate Judiciary Committee voted 10-8 Wednesday to send the nomination of Alberto Gonzales for attorney general to the Senate.

The full Senate was to debate the nominations of Jim Nicholson as Secretary of Veterans Affairs and Michael Leavitt to be Secretary of Health and Human Services on Wednesday afternoon.

CNN's Ed Henry contributed to this report.

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