Republican senators vow to block Rice promotion over Benghazi

President Obama defends Susan Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, who has been mentioned as a possible successor to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

WASHINGTON - Senior Republican senators vowed Wednesday to block any future promotion of Susan Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, over her handling of the September 11 attack on the U.S. mission in Benghazi, Libya.

"We will do whatever's necessary to block the nomination that's within our power as far as Susan Rice is concerned," said Senator John McCain. Fellow Republican Senator Lindsey Graham supported that stance at the same news conference.

Rice has been mentioned as a possible successor to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who has said she will not continue to serve in President Barack Obama's second term beginning in January.

Republican lawmakers, however, question Rice's initial description of the violence that killed the U.S. ambassador and three other American officials as a spontaneous outburst rather than a planned attack.

Obama on Wednesday defended Rice's handling of the attack, calling Republican criticism of her "outrageous."

At a White House news conference, Obama pushed back against Republican senators who oppose Rice's nomination.

Obama said if Sen. John McCain wants to go after someone, he should challenge the president, not Rice.

The senators cite Rice's comments five days after the Libya attack that it was the result of protests against an anti-Muslim video produced in the U.S. The attack killed the U.S. ambassador and three other Americans. It was the first time in three decades that a sitting U.S. ambassador had been killed.

McCain said Rice should have known that it was a terrorist attack.

The president said Rice has done "exemplary work" and said she spoke at the request of the White House "in which she gave her best understanding of the intelligence that had been provided to her."