South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham said on Face the Nation that he would block the nominations of Chuck Hagel for Secretary of Defense and John Brennan for CIA Director unless the White House filled in the blanks in the record of their response to the attacks on our diplomatic outpost in Benghazi.
The South Carolina lawmaker made the threat Sunday on CBS, using the phrase “no confirmation without information” in vowing to put a hold on the nominations of both John Brennan and Chuck Hagel unless the Obama administration provides more information about the Benghazi attack.
“I don’t think we should allow Brennan to go forward with the CIA directorship, Hagel to be confirmed for secretary of defense, until the White House gives us an accounting,” Graham said. “Did the president ever pick up the phone and call anyone from the Libyan government to help these folks? What did the president do?”
Previously, Graham had vowed to put a hold on Hagel’s nomination unless outgoing Defense Secretary Leon Panetta testified before Congress on the Benghazi attacks. Panetta testified last week before the Senate Armed Services Committee, saying that without direct warning or advance intelligence of the September 11, 2012, attack, there was no way for the military to respond in time.
Graham, along with other Republicans, has also criticized the Obama administration’s immediate response to the attack, particularly the appearance of U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice less than a week later on Sunday talk shows, where she blamed the attack on anger generated by an anti-Muslim video.
Rice has explained her remarks as derived from administration talking points, which Graham said Sunday had not yet been sufficiently explained.
“I want to know who changed the talking points. Who took the references to al Qaeda out of the talking points given to Susan Rice? We still don’t know,” said Graham, who specified that he would not filibuster the nominees, but rather hold them up until more information is disclosed.
Sen. John McCain, a close Republican ally of Graham’s in the Senate, said Monday he would not support a filibuster of Hagel, which would be unprecedented for a president’s Cabinet nominee.
What exactly would it mean for Graham to place a “hold” on the nominations?
A “hold” is an informal procedure by which a senator signals to his or her floor leader that he or she doesn’t want a bill or nomination to come to the floor. Holds have been used for years by senators to indicate that a nomination is so unacceptable to them that they’d try to filibuster it — to stop it through endless debate — if necessary.
The hold is a senatorial courtesy, and threatening to use it is just about all the Republicans have left when it comes to leverage on the White House to get more information about Benghazi. It would be unprecedented to place a hold on a cabinet nomination, and it is likely that Majority Leader Harry Reid would demand a cloture vote in order to lift the hold and bring the nominations to the floor. Several Republicans would probably join the 55 Democrats in voting for cloture, and the president would get his up or down vote on both nominees.
Graham would probably not go along with a filibuster. Hagel and Brennan’s other major critics in the Senate would be equally reluctant. And what he’s asking for from the White House, he is not likely to get. The administration has successfully stonewalled, obfuscated, and brushed off requests for information until Benghazi now seems a distant memory — a bad dream that the president would like the American people to forget.
It seems likely at this point, that the president will get his wish.