At the White House's request, confirmation hearings for Condoleezza Rice (search) as secretary of state will not begin until Congress reconvenes in January, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee said Sunday.

When President Bush nominated his national security adviser to replace Colin Powell (search) at the State Department, Sen. Richard Lugar (search) said he would try to bring his committee together in the first week of December to begin the Senate confirmation process.

"The White House suggested that that would not be appropriate — that is, in December," Lugar said on "Fox News Sunday." "So we'll not be having hearings in December, but we'll have hearings as soon as possible in January."

He predicted Rice's nomination will draw strong support in the Senate and will have no difficulty being approved.

Lugar did not say why the White House considered early hearings inappropriate. The resignation of the 67-year-old Powell was presented as part of an overhaul of Bush's cabinet for his second term.

The 109th Congress (search) convenes on Jan. 3, and Bush takes his oath of office for his second term on Jan. 20.