The Senate Intelligence Committee is scheduled to vote Tuesday on CIA director nominee John O. Brennan — and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid wants a full Senate vote this week — but Republicans still want more answers on last year’s terrorist attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya.
“At a time when America faces so many threats abroad, it’s crucial we have a talented and dedicated individual like Brennan leading the nation’s most prominent intelligence agency,” Reid, D-Nev., said on the floor Monday.
Senate Intelligence Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., has predicted Brennan has enough votes to make it out of her committee.
Even if he does win committee approval, Republicans John McCain of Arizona and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina have both threatened to place holds on Brennan’s nomination until they get the information they want about Benghazi. On Monday, along with Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., they released a written statement highlighting many of the things they still do not know about the attack.
“We do not know what person or persons, representing what executive branch agency or agencies, changed the unclassified talking points to remove references to Al-Qaeda and a terrorist attack in describing the attack on the U.S. Mission in Benghazi,” the trio stated. Among other intelligence-related questions, they said they did not know why testimony from evacuated personnel was not factored into the judgments of the intelligence community, and whether the failure to share that information speaks to ongoing barriers for sharing intelligence across agencies.
Speaking to reporters in the Capitol Monday evening, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., hinted that a hold or delay is possible on Brennan’s nomination.
“We’re being stonewalled. We’re being filibustered by this administration, and what I’m asking for is incredibly relevant to understand what actually happened in Benghazi to make sure we never do it again,” Graham said. “I’ve been told that our Republican colleagues and Democratic colleagues did not like the first disclosure.”
“Maybe it’s gotten better, but you know, I want to talk with Sen. Chambliss and see how he feels,” Graham added, referring to Saxby Chambliss, the Georgia Republican who serves as vice chairman of the Intelligence Committee.
Graham said he wants to hear from Chambliss and other Republicans on the Intelligence panel about whether or not the additional documents the White House provided them are “enough” to move forward.
“It’s a common practice to put holds on nominees to get information that a senator would like to have,” Graham added. “If they’re not going to respect our holds, then that’s going to change the way the Senate works.”
Reid said that Republican threats to hold up nominations could force a 60-vote threshold, despite GOP senators saying they didn’t want to filibuster nominees.
But some Democrats, too, could put the brakes on the Brennan nomination.
Ron Wyden, D-Ore., has not ruled out placing a hold on Brennan’s nomination if the Obama administration won’t hand over additional Department of Justice legal opinions on the targeted killing of U.S. citizens overseas who are suspected of being top al-Qaida officials.
Wyden said last week that the acting CIA director Michael Morrell is qualified to lead the agency while Brennan’s nomination is being vetted.
Rand Paul, R-Ky., also has threatened a hold until the administration gives an answer, in public, about whether it can conduct drone strikes on U.S. soil.