WASHINGTON -- One Senate Democrat called Condoleezza Rice a liar yesterday and others said she was an apologist for Bush administration failures in Iraq, but she remained on track for confirmation as secretary of state.
Rice, who has been President Bush's White House national security adviser for four years, was one of the loudest voices urging war, Democrats said. She repeatedly deceived members of Congress and Americans at large about justifications for the war, said Senator Mark Dayton, Democrat of Minnesota.
''I don't like impugning anyone's integrity, but I really don't like being lied to," Dayton said. ''Repeatedly, flagrantly, intentionally."
Rice is expected to win confirmation today. Senate majority leader Bill Frist, Republican of Tennessee, predicted that Rice would have ''an overwhelming majority" of votes.
Senator Richard Lugar, an Indiana Republican, cautioned against ''inflammatory rhetoric that is designed merely to create partisan advantage or to settle partisan scores."
Rice would succeed Colin Powell, who often found himself on the outside looking in with Bush's close circle of war and national security advisers.
By contrast, Rice is a trusted Bush loyalist. As a principal architect of the Iraq invasion and the administration's war on terrorism, she shares blame for overstating the threat posed by Saddam Hussein, Democrats said.
''My vote against this nominee is my statement that this administration's lies must stop now," Dayton said in opposing Rice's nomination on the Senate floor.
Politicians rarely use the word ''lie," preferring some of the milder terms other Democrats used yesterday.
''There was no reason to go to war in Iraq when we did, the way we did and for the false reasons we were given," said Senator Edward M. Kennedy, Democrat of Massachusetts.
Had Rice not given those reasons, Kennedy said in opening the debate, ''it might have changed the course of history."
''Dr. Rice is responsible for some of the most overblown rhetoric that the administration used to scare the American people," said Senator Robert Byrd, a West Virginia Democrat.
Rice is not directly responsible for intelligence failures prior to the Iraq war that overestimated Hussein's nuclear capability, said Senator Carl Levin, Democrat of Michigan. ''But she is responsible for her own distortions and exaggerations of the intelligence which was provided to her," Levin said.
Democrats Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut and Ken Salazar of Colorado, were among the senators who spoke in Rice's favor
The Senate set aside most of the day yesterday to debate the nomination after Democrats revolted against a plan to confirm Rice last week, on the same day that Bush took his oath for a second term.
''We should have been done last week," Frist said. ''I was disappointed that we are having to march through the debate today. But ultimately the vote will occur."
Today, a brief series of statements by senators is expected, setting up the vote on the nomination.
Republicans who took the floor to endorse Rice included Senator Chuck Hagel of Nebraska, who has been a sometime critic of the Bush administration's Iraq policies.
''Dr. Rice has the intelligence, the integrity, and the experience for this job. She has the president's confidence," Hagel said.
In his dealings with Rice, ''she's always been candid and honest, and she listened," Hagel said.
Senator Kay Bailey Hutchinson, Republican of Texas, said that while mistakes were made it was wrong to rehash them.
Hutchinson lauded Rice for a ''steady hand" in staying the course on the war on terrorism.
''I think Condoleezza Rice is the most qualified person" for the job, she said.
Rice answered 199 questions during two days of hearings before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee last week, Lugar said. She answered almost as many in writing, a record nearly unmatched by other Cabinet nominees through history, Lugar said.
Democrats on the committee and off it, however, said Rice dodged hard questions.
Democrats, in the minority in Congress, often resort to delaying what they cannot defeat.
Byrd, the longest-serving Democratic senator and a student of the Constitution, insisted that his party is merely doing its duty.
''I am particularly dismayed by criticism I have read that Senate Democrats by insisting on having the opportunity to debate this nomination have somehow been engaged in nothing more substantial than petty politics or partisan delaying tactics," Byrd said, his voice rising.