California Senators Spar Over Rice

The two high-profile Democrats who represent California in the Senate are squaring off over Condoleezza Rice (search), the president's nominee to be secretary of state.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (search), the senior and more moderate of the two, supports Rice and plans to introduce her at her confirmation hearing Tuesday before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

That's where Sen. Barbara Boxer (search), a member of the committee, will be waiting to grill Rice over the war in Iraq. Boxer maintains that Rice misled the public over the war.

While Feinstein has supported the war, Boxer has been a strong critic of it.

Rice, Bush's national security adviser, lists California as her residence after having served for six years as provost of Stanford University (search), Feinstein's alma mater. It's customary for nominees to ask home-state senators to introduce them at confirmation hearings.

Feinstein accepted Rice's invitation to introduce her to the committee, and praised her in a statement Friday as "the natural choice to be our country's next secretary of state."

Boxer gave a hint Friday on how she is expected to greet Rice at the Tuesday hearing.

"I personally believe that your loyalty to the mission you were given overwhelmed your respect for the truth," Boxer plans to tell Rice, according to prepared remarks she released Friday.

Rice has been mentioned as a potential candidate for elected office in California — including as a possible opponent to Boxer, who won re-election to a third six-year term in November.

A Rice spokesman, deputy national security adviser Jim Wilkinson, declined to comment on the dispute.

He said Rice "looks forward to the confirmation hearing and a discussion of the key foreign policy priorities facing our nation and the men and women of the State Department."

Feinstein, 71, and Boxer, 64, both San Francisco Bay area Democrats, have been in the Senate since they both were elected in 1992. While they agree on many issues, they have been on opposite sides on such matters as the Iraq war (search) and Bush's Medicare reform (search) bill, which Feinstein supports.