Updated 5:50 p.m. est
WASHINGTON--Embattled UN Ambassador Susan Rice asked President Barack Obama not to consider her for Secretary of State on Thursday, sparring the president a confirmation fight with GOP senators determined to block her promotion.
Obama said Rice--an early supporter of his presidential bid, where she served as his foreign policy advisor--will continue to serve as UN Ambassador as he heads into a second term.
In a letter to the president Rice wrote, "If nominated, I am now convinced that the confirmation process would be lengthy, disruptive and costly - to you and to our most pressing national and international priorities. That trade-off is simply not worth it to our country. ... Therefore, I respectfully request that you no longer consider my candidacy at this time."
Rice was seen to be one of Obama's top choices to replace departing Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton--but her explanations about the Sept. 11 raid on a U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya where four U.S. diplomats died--which proved not to be right--created a confirmation battle with GOP senators.
With Rice out of the picture, a top Obama pick could be Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
In a statement Obama deplored the criticism lobbed at Rice.
"I have every confidence that Susan has limitless capability to serve our country now and in the years to come, and know that I will continue to rely on her as an advisor and friend. While I deeply regret the unfair and misleading attacks on Susan Rice in recent weeks, her decision demonstrates the strength of her character, and an admirable commitment to rise above the politics of the moment to put our national interests first. The American people can be proud to have a public servant of her caliber and character representing our country," Obama said.
After Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Lindsay Graham (R-S.C.) vowed to block Rice if she was nominated, Obama said in his first press conference after winning re-election "They should go after me."
Five days after the raid, Rice was on five Sunday shows where she said the Benghazi attacks were triggered by an anti-Muslim movie--when not the work of terrorists.
"What happened in Benghazi was in fact initially a spontaneous reaction to what had just transpired hours before in Cairo, almost a copycat of the demonstrations against our facility in Cairo, which were prompted, of course, by the video," Rice said on NBC's "Meet the Press."
Obama asked his cabinet members to remain in place until the looming fiscal cliff crisis is resolved, no wanting to make switches while consumed with negotiations with Congress. Tapping Kerry for Secretary of State means Massachusetts would hold a special election to fill his seat--and potentially give Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.), who lost his November re-election bid to Sen.-elect Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) a chance to run again.
Kerry said in a statement, "I've known and worked closely with Susan Rice not just at the UN, but in my own campaign for President. I've defended her publicly and wouldn't hesitate to do so again because I know her character and I know her commitment.
"She's an extraordinarily capable and dedicated public servant. Today's announcement doesn't change any of that. We should all be grateful that she will continue to serve and contribute at the highest level. As someone who has weathered my share of political attacks and understands on a personal level just how difficult politics can be, I've felt for her throughout these last difficult weeks, but I also know that she will continue to serve with great passion and distinction."
"Today, I spoke to Ambassador Susan Rice, and accepted her decision to remove her name from consideration for Secretary of State. For two decades, Susan has proven to be an extraordinarily capable, patriotic, and passionate public servant.
"As my Ambassador to the United Nations, she plays an indispensable role in advancing America's interests. Already, she has secured international support for sanctions against Iran and North Korea, worked to protect the people of Libya, helped achieve an independent South Sudan, stood up for Israel's security and legitimacy, and served as an advocate for UN reform and the human rights of all people. I am grateful that Susan will continue to serve as our Ambassador at the United Nations and a key member of my cabinet and national security team, carrying her work forward on all of these and other issues.
"I have every confidence that Susan has limitless capability to serve our country now and in the years to come, and know that I will continue to rely on her as an advisor and friend. While I deeply regret the unfair and misleading attacks on Susan Rice in recent weeks, her decision demonstrates the strength of her character, and an admirable commitment to rise above the politics of the moment to put our national interests first. The American people can be proud to have a public servant of her caliber and character representing our country."