One Lawmakers Lumps of Coal is Another's X-Mas Treat


ABC'S JONATHAN KARL: The President has not made a choice on his next nominee for Secretary of State yet, but Governor Deval Patrick is already making plans to fill presumptive SecState nominee John Kerry's Senate seat. Knowledgeable sources tell me Governor Patrick has already had a discussion with one potential replacement for Senator Kerry: Vicki Kennedy. The sources say the governor talked to Kennedy, the widow of Senator Ted Kennedy, about the possibility of replacing Kerry in the Senate and that she did not rule it out. But don't count on seeing another Senator Kennedy from Massachusetts any time soon: a source close to Vicki Kennedy says she would be unlikely to accept the appointment. But again, she has not ruled it out. If Kerry is nominated and confirmed as Secretary of State, Governor Patrick would appoint somebody to replace Kerry and, under Massachusetts law, a special election would be held no later than 160 days (and no earlier than 145 days) after Kerry leaves the Senate.

ABC'S RICK KLEIN: After the soul-searching will come the policy-finding. Gov. Bobby Jindal's play is that the Republican Party is ready for both, and fast. His latest proposal, a make-you-think op-ed where he argues in favor of over-the-counter birth control, reads like a challenge to the social-conservative base, until you realize it actually isn't. He's charting not a centrist course but a mature course for Republicans, to shift to fit the nation's changes rather than wish them away.


SUSAN RICE: WHY I WITHDREW. "On Thursday I asked that President Obama no longer consider me for the job of secretary of state. I made this decision because it is the right step for this country I love. I have never shied away from a fight for a cause I believe in. But, as it became clear that my potential nomination would spark an enduring partisan battle, I concluded that it would be wrong to allow this debate to continue distracting from urgent national priorities - creating jobs, growing our economy, addressing our deficit, reforming our immigration system and protecting our national security. These are the issues that deserve our focus, not a controversy about me."

NOTED: WHY RICE MADE A CONTROVERSIAL CANDIDATE. Rice, who withdrew her name Thursday, has faced months of criticism over how she characterized the Sept. 11 attack on a U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, reports ABC's Dana Hughes and Sarah Parnass. She also has come under fire for her approach to dealing with African strongmen. Over the last few weeks, criticism of Rice had grown beyond her response to Benghazi to include a closer scrutiny of her work in Africa, where she had influence over U.S. policy during the Clinton administration. Critics of her Africa dealings were not partisan - but included human rights workers, journalists and some Africans themselves.

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