Senator says he’ll block nominations over Benghazi
WASHINGTON (AP) — A U.S. senator threatened Monday to hold up all nominations for federal government positions until survivors of last year’s deadly attack on the diplomatic post in Libya appear before Congress.
The State Department disclosed that it already had sent to Capitol Hill for a deposition an employee who was in Benghazi the night of the attack, and the White House said Republicans were playing politics with the issue.
Sen. Lyndsey Graham started off the day’s back-and-forth with a tweet on his official Twitter account: “Where are the #Benghazi survivors? I’m going to block every appointment in the US Senate until they are made available to Congress.”
Prominent nominations announced by President Barack Obama and awaiting Senate confirmation include Janet Yellen for chair of the Federal Reserve and Jeh Johnson for secretary of the Homeland Security Department.
There have been a number of Capitol Hill hearings on the Sept. 11, 2012, attack in Benghazi, Libya, that killed Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans. And there was a review chaired by former Ambassador Thomas Pickering and former Joint Chiefs Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen. But Graham is among lawmakers dissatisfied with information they’ve received so far and he has threatened previous nominations over the issue.
Graham said he wants a joint select committee formed from several individual Senate committees to investigate.
“The State Department is blaming the CIA, the CIA is blaming the State Department. Where was the Department of Defense?” Graham said earlier Monday on the news show “Fox & Friends.”
White House spokesman Jay Carney said the administration had already made “extraordinary efforts to work” with a number of congressional committees investigating what happened before, during and after the Benghazi attacks. “That includes testifying at 13 congressional hearings, participating in 40 staff briefings and providing over 25,000 pages of documents,” Carney said.
“Let’s be clear that some Republicans are choosing to play politics with this for partisan purposes, and we find that unfortunate,” Carney said, denying he was referring to Graham specifically and saying it has been the case among Republicans “in general.”
Former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, testified for several hours before the Senate Armed Services Committee earlier this year about the military’s actions related to Benghazi. Both men answered questions from Graham, a member of the panel.
Graham and other Republicans have repeatedly called for a special select committee of Congress, but Republican and Democratic leaders have resisted. In the House, Republican leaders have said the five committees examining the attack are well-equipped to handle any investigation.
Under the Constitution, the president nominates — but the Senate must approve — a host of appointments including ambassadors, Supreme Court Justices and Cabinet members and military personnel being promoted to the rank of general officer.
Graham complained on Fox that 14 months after the attack, people who survived it “have not been made available to the U.S. Congress for oversight purposes.”
But Jen Psaki, spokeswoman for the State Department, said the department last month sent to the House Oversight Committee a diplomatic security official “who was present in Benghazi the night of the attack.” It was the first official confirmation that such a deposition had been given.
Associated Press writers Pauline Jelinek, Matthew Lee, Donna Cassata and Nedra Pickler contributed to this report.