Rep. Barbara Lee

CONGRESS | Rep. Barbara Lee made the rounds on the cable news television circuit Monday in move possibly designed to raise her public profile as she runs for the vice chair of the House Democratic caucus.

Lee appeared on CNN Monday morning issuing support for averting the “fiscal cliff” without cuts to entitlement programs, especially unemployment compensation. “There’s reason for hope,” Lee said of the President and House Republicans striking a deal before the end of the year. She called cuts to unemployment insurance for over 2 million Americans, “tragic,” when 60 percent of federal discretionary spending is on defense.

The Oakland congresswoman, instead, urged for the end of the Bush tax cuts. “However they work this out, I hope we don’t see the extension of tax cuts for those making over $250,000.”

Later in the day, Lee also appeared on MSNBC dealing with an altogether different topic—United Nations Ambassador Susan Rice—who she vehemently defended. “We are attacking this ambassador for doing her job and we need to stop the politicizing of this and get the facts,” Lee told Andrea Mitchell.

President Obama and Democrats have stood firm in their support of Rice as Republicans led by Sen. John McCain, who faulted her allegedly proffering false intelligence following the attack on the U.S. embassy in Benghazi, Libya. Many believe Rice is first in line to replace Hillary Clinton as secretary of state.

Lee’s support Monday of entitlements and Rice shores up two strong constituencies within the Democratic Party—unemployment insurance on the progressive wing and the administration, which has gone to great pains to support Rice.

Last week, Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.) dropped out of the race for the House Democrat’s only contested leadership position. That leaves Lee and New York Rep. Joe Crowley in the running to take over for Rep. Xavier Becerra (D-Calif.) as vice chair of the party’s House caucus.

Crowley is a moderate Democrat who ran for the chairmanship, the fifth-highest position among the party’s House leadership, in 2006, losing to Rep. John Larson (D-Conn.). According to The Hill, Crowley was favored by Rep. Steny Hoyer, while Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi has long supported Lee, her fellow Bay Area representative. Pelosi’s decision last week to stay on as minority leader may be a plus for Lee, however, the congressional newspaper hints Polis’ exit may improve Crowley’s chances.

Watch Rep. Barbara Lee on CNN, Nov. 19, 2012.

Watch Rep. Barbara Lee on MSNBC, Nov. 19, 2012.

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