United Nations Ambassador Susan Rice has pulled her name out of consideration for nomination as the next secretary of state.
“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,” Rice wrote in a letter to President Obama first obtained by NBC News. “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."
President Obama responded in a statement of his own, saying that he is "grateful" that Rice will continue to serve as ambassador to the United Nations and as a "key member" of his national security team.
"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," Obama said. "The American people can be proud to have a public servant of her caliber and character representing our country."
Rice has come under sustained criticism from Republicans for her handling of questions about the attack on a U.S. diplomatic outpost in Benghazi.
Some Republican lawmakers have suggested that she was part of what they believe was an election-related attempt to portray the attack as a peaceful demonstration that turned violent, rather than an organized terrorist assault. Administration officials have said that she was merely reading from talking points drawn from the intelligence available at the time.
One of those critics, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), said in a statement Thursday, “I respect Ambassador Rice’s decision. President Obama has many talented people to choose from to serve as our next Secretary of State.”
Rice's decision will mean renewed focus on Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), whom President Obama has also been considering as a potential Defense secretary. Republicans have praised Kerry as a wise choice -- perhaps because his nomination would give defeated Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.) a chance to regain office in another special election.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton plans to serve only one term.