Susan Rice now front-runner to replace Hillary Clinton?

Susan Rice, permanent representative of the United States to the United Nations, is reportedly being considered to head the Department of State once Hillary Clinton steps down. Photo by: Devra Berkowitz / United Nations

Despite reportedly being very interested in the job, U.S. Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts might not be heading to the Department of State after all.

U.S. President Barack Obama is considering tapping Kerry, currently head of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, to be his next secretary of defense, according to The Washington Post, citing officials familiar with the president’s transition plans. The same officials suggest that Susan Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, is now the front-runner to secure the nomination to replace Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

These plans, however, are still in the early phases and may change, the officials, who requested anonymity, told the Post. 

Among the administration’s considerations is whether to risk giving up Kerry’s Senate seat, which could end up going to Scott Brown, the Republican lawmaker who lost his seat to Democrat Elizabeth Warren in the Nov. 6 elections. Then again, gaining two seats in the recent election could give Democrats the incentive to take that risk.

Kerry and Rice have both been attached to speculations on who will replace Clinton almost as soon as the secretary hinted that she would not remain in her post for more than a few months into Obama’s second term. Earlier reports did suggest Kerry was the front-runner; the Post’s story is the first to link the senator to the defense post.

Rice does have good chances of securing the nomination. She is a close aid of Obama, having served as his policy adviser on both his senatorial and first presidential campaigns. She also brings considerable foreign policy experience, having served various related positions in the Clinton administration.

Rice, however, is likely to face a tough battle at securing Senate confirmation. A number of lawmakers, such as Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, have been critical of Rice’s handling of and comments about the attack on the U.S consulate in Benghazi, which resulted in the deaths of Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other U.S. citizens a few weeks ago.

USAID leadership

There’s no official word yet on whether Rajiv Shah will remain as administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development. But amid speculations he would leave the agency, a number of names are already being linked to the post.

Among them is outgoing Democratic Rep. Howard Berman of California, who lost his seat to fellow Democrat Brad Sherman. Berman is a strong advocate of foreign aid reform and has served as chairman and ranking member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, which is also set to see new leadership come January 2013, as Devex has reported.

Nancy Lindborg, current USAID assistant administrator for the Bureau for Democracy, Conflict and Humanitarian Assistance, is also widely considered to be in the running for higher office. Lindborg may have an advantage but there is still no guarantee the next administrator — should Shah leave — would be from USAID. It could also go to a USAID outsider from within the administration, such as the National Security Council’s Gayle Smith, or even from outside the administration.

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About the author

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    Ivy Mungcal

    As senior staff writer, Ivy Mungcal contributes to several Devex publications. Her focus is on breaking news, and in particular on global aid reform and trends in the United States, Europe, the Caribbean and the Americas. Before joining Devex in 2009, Ivy produced specialized content for U.S. and U.K.-based business websites.