By Jeremy Herb
The Senate’s Armed Services panel is calling for Defense Secretary Leon Panetta to testify on last year’s attacks in Benghazi, Libya — an appearance that could be key to his successor’s Senate confirmation.
Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said he would place a hold on President Obama’s
nomination of former Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.) to lead the Pentagon
unless Panetta testifies on what the Pentagon did before, during and
after the Sept. 11, 2012, attack on the U.S. facility in Benghazi that
left four Americans dead.
one thing I’m not going to do is vote on a new secretary of Defense
until the old secretary of Defense, Leon Panetta, who I like very much,
testifies about what happened in Benghazi,” Graham said on Monday.
Clinton got away with murder, in my view,” he said, referring to the
secretary of State’s testimony before Congress last week. “She said
they had a clear-eyed view of the threats. How could you have a
clear-eyed view of the threats in Benghazi when you didn’t know about
the ambassador’s cable coming back from Libya?”
Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin (D-Mich.) said Tuesday
that Graham’s threat to block Hagel likely would not need to be acted
on, however, telling reporters that a hearing with Panetta on Benghazi
was already in the works.
Levin said that a Benghazi
hearing would take place before Hagel’s nomination went to the Senate
floor, though the committee might still vote on Hagel beforehand.
“We don’t have a date yet, but we are doing it,” Levin said Tuesday. “I committed long ago to have a hearing on Benghazi.”
Hagel’s confirmation hearing is scheduled for Thursday.
made a similar threat against President Obama’s nominee for CIA
director, John Brennan, when Brennan was nominated earlier this month,
but this was the first time he’d suggested he’d also block Hagel over
the Sept. 11 attack. While Brennan was part of the Obama administration
during last year’s attack, Hagel was not.
before both the House and Senate Foreign Relations committees last
week, one day before Sen. John Kerry’s (D-Mass.) confirmation hearings
to succeed Clinton.
When asked Tuesday, Pentagon press
secretary George Little did not say whether Panetta would testify
before Congress. The request had been received, he said, and
discussions with the committee were ongoing.
heard whether or not there’s intent to do that, but we will respond, of
course, to the request that came in,” Little said at a Pentagon press
“We have been very forthcoming with the
United States Congress on the U.S. military response to the incident in
Benghazi, and we’ll continue to provide as much information as we can,”
Levin said the Benghazi hearing would not
delay Hagel’s confirmation — but he also made clear that it would not
be fast-tracked to the Senate floor like Kerry’s has been this week.
Graham was informed of the news that Panetta was asked to testify
before the Armed Services panel, he said that would satisfy his
concerns over Hagel.
“I’m happy as a clam then,” Graham said.
said on Fox News that he wanted to know from Panetta why no military
assets were available on Sept. 11 when the U.S. facility in Libya came
Panetta has said that the intelligence was too murky for the U.S. to send military assets into Libya.
Hagel’s nomination itself, Graham said that what Hagel says at the
hearing would determine how he votes. Graham has been highly critical
of Obama’s Defense nominee, but has stopped short of saying he opposes
Graham, who will question Hagel as an Armed Services panel member, said he met with Hagel for about 20 minutes on Tuesday.
like Chuck. I find him to be a good person,” Graham said. “I don’t
question his honesty or integrity. My differences will be over policy.”
--This report was originally published at 11:21 a.m. and last updated at 7:53 p.m.