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Senate Expected to Confirm Rice as Secretary of State Wednesday

The U.S. Senate is expected to confirm National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice as Secretary of State Wednesday, despite opposition from some Democrats. The Senate held a full day of debate on the nomination Tuesday.

Democrats used the debate to criticize Bush administration policy on Iraq.

They accused Ms. Rice and other members of the administration of misleading the American people about the rationale for war with Iraq when those officials cited weapons of mass destruction as the key justification for the invasion. No such weapons have been found.

"What trouble me the most about this is that I think it evidences one of the most profound failures in a democracy. When leaders of a democratic government mislead the people of the country in relation to a war and an invasion of another country, I think that is the lowest you can reach," said Senator Dick Durbin, Illinois Democrat.

Senator Robert Byrd of West Virginia, one of the Senate's most vocal critics of the war in Iraq, said a vote for Ms. Rice would send the wrong signal to the rest of the world. "Her confirmation will almost certainly be viewed as another endorsement of the administration's unconstitutional doctrine of pre-emptive strikes, its bullying policies of unilateralism, and its callous rejection of our long-standing allies," he said.

But Senator George Allen, a Virginia Republican, argued that it is Democrats' criticism of Ms. Rice and their criticism of administration policy that is sending the wrong signal overseas. "In the criticism and statements and also in trying to divide opinion on this nomination of Dr. Rice, be careful not to be diminishing her credibility in the eyes of those in capitals around the world. Detractors can do this country a great disservice by playing too hard a partisan game. We need here to show a unity of purpose to advance freedom," he said.

Senator Allen noted that Ms. Rice acknowledged in her confirmation hearings that mistakes were made in the administration's approach to Iraq. But he said the result of the administration's decision is that 25 million Iraqis have been freed from Saddam Hussein's repressive regime.

Not all Democrats oppose Ms. Rice's nomination. Senator Dianne Feinstein of California is among those who will be supporting her confirmation. "I believe she is a remarkable woman, and I look forward to working with her as Secretary of State," he said.

Republicans agree that Ms. Rice is well-qualified for the job.

Senator Chuck Hagel, a Nebraska Republican, said Ms. Rice - a close confidante of President Bush -- would not hesitate to be candid with her boss. "She must give the President the bad news, as well as the good news. And when she disagrees with other members of the cabinet and the President and Vice President, she must say so. I believe she will do so," he said.

Despite opposition from some Democrats,Ms. Rice is expected to be easily confirmed Wednesday, succeeding Collin Powell as Secretary of state.

A confirmation vote had been scheduled last Thursday, shortly after President Bush's inauguration to a second term. But Democrats demanded extra time to debate the nomination, and so the vote was rescheduled.