WASHINGTON: Senator Threatens to Block Obama’s Defense, CIA Picks UPDATE

February 11, 2013 at 12:58 am Leave a comment

Gauntlet Down

(Note: Senate Republicans have held up Hagel’s nomination until at least late February. See update below)

Photo: Sen. Graham's website

Photo: Sen. Graham’s website

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) – a longtime member of the Senate Armed Services Committee – is not happy with White House explanations about the attack on the U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya last year. Four Americans were killed, including the U.S. Ambassador to Libya.

On the Sunday (Feb. 10) television talk show “Face the Nation,” Graham threatened to hold up the nominations of President Obama’s picks to Secretary of Defense and CIA Director until he gets some questions answered.

Graham, along with several other Senate Republicans – including Sens. John McCain of Arizona and Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire – believe the White House has not been forthcoming on the events surrounding last September’s attack on the U.S. Embassy annex in Benghazi. Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans were killed in the attack, which the administration said was prompted by Muslim outrage across the Africa, the Middle East and Asia over a viral video that insulted the Prophet Muhammad.

In testimony last week before the Senate Armed Services Committee both Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Gen. Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the joint Chiefs of Staff, said they soon knew that the attack was a terrorist plot and not a spontaneous demonstration that turned violent.

That has led Graham and others to accuse the administration of withholding information on what he called “a national security failure of massive proportions.”

On the talk show, Graham said he would hold up the nominations of former Nebraska senator Chuck Hagel to head the Pentagon and John Brennan to take over the CIA “until we get an accounting.”

Graham said he did not intend to filibuster the nominations.

UPDATE:

After the Senate Armed Services Committee narrowly approved Hagel’s nomination Feb. 12 on a 14-to-11 party line vote (Democrats for, Republicans against) the nomination stalled in the Senate Feb. 14 when it failed to secure the 60 votes needed to halt debate and be brought to the Senate floor for a vote.  No further action is expected before Feb. 25 when the Senate returns from a Washington’s Birthday break. Meanwhile, retiring Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has given his last press conference, been honored for his service and after a teary, applause-filled ceremony, boarded a plane to return home to California. He may have to return –temporarily — but stay tuned.

Senate rules allow a single senator to throw a monkey wrench into the presidential appointee process – at least until pressure is brought to bear on them – or they get their way. Sen. Jack Reed, a Rhode Island Democrat who was on the same program as Graham, said the Republican was right to probe and seek more answers but that holding up two key national security nominations was “inappropriate” and “unprecedented.”

Current Defense Secretary Panetta wants to retire and go home to California. The longer the Pentagon goes with out a replacement, the harder it will be to shepherd the next defense budget – already weeks late for its scheduled delivery by the administration – through a Congress bent on cutting the deficit.

Stay tuned, it’s going to be a bumpy ride for the next couple of weeks.

CORRECTS PREVIOUS VERSION to show Committee vote was Feb. 12 and vote to end debate was Feb. 14.

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Entry filed under: Counter Terrorism, National Security and Defense, Washington. Tags: , , , , , .

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