Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations European affairs subcommittee, said he'd focus on U.S.-European trade talks, rebalancing the military burden among NATO allies, instability in Turkey and Russia's crackdown on civil society groups. But he added, "I'm resigned to the fact that the Republicans are going to use any and every opportunity to talk about Benghazi."
Benghazi isn't the only possible flashpoint for the hearing.
Nuland was Clinton's spokeswoman when she and former CIA Director David Petraeus lobbied Obama to send weapons to vetted, moderate units of the Syrian opposition.
A year later, administration officials say the president has approved such military assistance but the operation's details are still being worked out. Meanwhile, Syrian President Bashar Assad's forces, backed by Russia, Iran and the militant group Hezbollah, have made considerable gains on the battlefield and firmed up their grip over much of the country.
Many in the Senate, Democrats and Republicans alike, believe the administration has acted too slowly on Syria.
As Obama's top diplomat for Europe, Nuland also would be entrusted with coordinating U.S.-Russian cooperation on preventing Iran from reaching nuclear weapons capacity and combatting terrorism in places such as Chechnya. The suspected Boston Marathon bombers were ethnic Chechens.