Rice retreat revives diversity concerns
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Now that Susan Rice has withdrawn under pressure from consideration as the next secretary of state, Democratic Sen.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