WASHINGTON — Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., still not satisfied with the administration's answers to questions about September's attack on a U.S. diplomatic outpost in Libya, said Sunday that he would try to delay Senate confirmation of former Nebraska Sen. Chuck Hagel to be defense secretary and John Brennan to be CIA director.
Graham, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said on CBS's “Face the Nation” that he would seek to block votes on Hagel and Brennan until he is satisfied with the explanation of what President Barack Obama was doing during the Sept. 11, 2012, attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi. Four Americans, including Ambassador Chris Stevens, were killed in the attack.
“This is a complete system failure, and I'm going to get to the bottom of it,” Graham said.
The senator said he would put a hold on the two confirmation votes. Under Senate rules, a hold can be a tough procedural obstacle. Sixty votes are needed to end a hold and bring a motion to the Senate floor.
Graham and other Republican critics have been hammering at the administration's response since shortly after the raid in September, criticizing early statements that linked the attack to demonstrations over a video that was critical of Islam. On Sunday, Graham asked whether the president had intervened to try to speed more help to the besieged compound.
“I don't know what the president did that evening. I don't know if he ever called anyone,” Graham said.
Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I., also appearing on the program, said that Graham's threat was “unprecedented and unwarranted.”
He said Graham had the right to ask “legitimate questions,” but not to try to block the nominations from an up-or-down vote. He called it “an overreaction that is not going to serve the best interest going forward of the national security of the United States.”
It's not clear how much support Graham's move would have among fellow Republicans. Sen. John McCain said Sunday that he was leaning toward voting against Hagel, a fellow Republican, saying he had “grave concerns” about his suitability.
But McCain also said he thought it would be wrong to invoke a filibuster to thwart a president's Cabinet choices.
No presidential Cabinet nominee in history has been required to attain the 60 votes necessary to overcome a filibuster, “and I don't think we should start here,” McCain said on “Fox News Sunday.” “Elections have consequences, unfortunately.”