Rice re­treat re­vives di­ver­sity con­cerns

Austin American-Statesman - - THE SECOND FRONT - Byjulie Pace

WASHINGTON — The top con­tenders for the “big three” jobs in Pres­i­dent Barack Obama’s sec­ondterm Cab­i­net are all white men, rekin­dling con­cerns about di­ver­sity in his in­ner cir­cle.

Now that Su­san Rice has with­drawn un­der pres­sure from con­sid­er­a­tion as the next sec­re­tary of state, Demo­cratic Sen. John Kerry of Mas­sachusetts is the fron­trun­ner for the na­tion’s top diplo­matic post. Former Repub­li­can Sen. Chuck Hagel of Ne­braska is Obama’s fa­vored can­di­date to run the Pen­tagon, and White House chief of staff Jack Lew is likely to be his next Trea­sury sec­re­tary if he wants the job.

“The boys net­work is alive and well,” Demo­cratic ac­tivist Donna Brazile wrote on Twit­ter af­ter Rice with­drew. “The war on qual­i­fied women con­tin­ues here in DC.”

Rice, the U.S. am­bas­sador to the United Na­tions and a close friend of the pres­i­dent, dropped out of con­sid­er­a­tion for the State De­part­ment job Thurs­day. That came af­ter months of with­er­ing crit­i­cism from Repub­li­cans on her ini­tial com­ments about the at­tacks on Amer­i­cans in Beng­hazi, Libya — crit­i­cism sev­eral fe­male House Democrats said smacked of sex­ism and racism. Rice is black.

Her with­drawal reignited ques­tions about gen­der di­ver­sity in the up­per ech­e­lons of the ad­min­is­tra­tion, a con­cern WASHINGTON — The Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion said Fri­day that more than half the states had re­jected its pleas to set up their own health in­surance ex­changes, deal­ing a set­back to Pres­i­dent Barack Obama’s hopes that Repub­li­cans would join a White House cam­paign to pro­vide health in­surance to all Amer­i­cans.

Fri­day was the dead­line for states to no­tify the fed­eral government of their plans, and ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cials had been hop­ing that Obama’s re-elec­tion would over­come re­sis­tance to the new health care law.

Fed­eral of­fi­cials said they knew of 17 states that in­tended to run their own ex­changes, as Congress in­tended.

Two of those states, New York and Ken­tucky, won con­di­tional fed­eral ap­proval Fri­day for their plans to cre­ate and run state-based ex­changes. Kath­leen Se­be­lius, the sec­re­tary of health and hu­man ser­vices, also ap­proved an ap­pli­ca­tion from the District of Columbia.

In seek­ing fed­eral money, New York es­ti­mated that 1 mil­lion peo­ple could ob­tain in­surance through its ex­change.

In ad­di­tion, said Josh Vlasto, a spokesman for Gov. An­drew Cuomo, the ex­change will lower the cost of health cov­er­age for many New York busi­nesses.

But in Vir­ginia, af­ter more than a year of plan­ning and re­search, Gov. Bob McDon­nell said his state would not op­er­ate

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