OVERNIGHT DEFENSE: Benghazi invades Hagel confirmation

Levin told reporters Tuesday that the request to the Pentagon was only made in the last day or so, and that lawmakers had not received a confirmation yet from DOD.

Pentagon press secretary George Little said that discussions are ongoing with the committee, but did not indicate that anything had been finalized.

“I was recently made aware that a request was made of the secretary to testify. We will, of course, respond to Senator Graham and others on Capitol Hill,” Little said at Tuesday’s Pentagon press briefing.

ADVERTISEMENT
Graham was the first Republican to threaten to either filibuster or — in a more extreme move — place a hold on President Obama’s nominee to run the Pentagon.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnellMitch McConnellSenate healthcare bill appears headed for failure Talk of Trump pardons reverberates on Sunday shows Trump backers eye GOP primary challenges for Flake, Heller MORE (R-Ky.) declined to say Tuesday what steps he or Senate Republicans might take to hold up Hagel’s nomination.

“I think it's too early to predict the conditions under which his nomination would be considered,” McConnell said.

Graham, for his part, said he was “happy as a clam” to hear that Levin was planning a Benghazi hearing, saying that would satisfy his concerns.

He could be less pleased, however, if Panetta were not the DOD witness that comes to Capitol Hill.

Graham said that he would be fine with Hagel’s nomination getting voted out of committee before a hearing on Benghazi was held, which Levin indicated was a possible timeline. “I’m a reasonable person,” Graham said.

Levin predicts a ‘civil’ Hagel hearing: Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl LevinCarl LevinTrump and GOP wise to keep tax reform and infrastructure separate Former senator investigated man in Trump Jr. meeting for money laundering Dems abuse yet another Senate tradition to block Trump's agenda MORE (D-Mich.) told reporters Tuesday that he thought former Sen. Chuck HagelChuck HagelPentagon withholding nuclear weapons inspection results: report Lobbying World The US just attacked Syria. So where's Congress? MORE’s (R-Neb.) confirmation hearing Thursday would be a “civil” affair.

“People have a lot of questions, and I think they’ll ask them in a respectful and straightforward way,” Levin said. “I don’t expect it to be a negative hearing. I expect it to be a straightforward hearing with difficult questions being asked.”

Levin has praised Hagel — though stopped short of endorsing him ahead of the hearing — while his Republican counterpart on the panel, ranking member James InhofeJames InhofeMcCain absence adds to GOP agenda’s uncertainty GOP signals infrastructure bill must wait Lobbying World MORE (R-Okla.), has said he will vote against him for Defense secretary.

Most lawmakers on the panel have declined to get into too much detail about their questions for Hagel, and many say they are waiting to decide on his confirmation until after they hear his responses at the hearing.

Levin also said that the Hagel hearing could spill over into a second day, although he wasn’t sure yet if that would be necessary.

Armed Services to hold sequester hearing: Benghazi isn’t the only subject the Armed Services Committee is going to tackle in the coming weeks, as Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin (D-Mich.) said Tuesday that he will also have a hearing on sequestration ahead of the March 1 deadline for the spending cuts to take effect.

Levin told reporters that the hearing would be held “in the next few weeks,” and that the committee had placed a request with the Pentagon for witnesses to appear.

He didn’t get into details about what other witnesses might testify.

Levin said he is working on the revenue side of things to try and avert the sequester, coming up with proposals to close tax loopholes to bring in more revenue.

Graham blames both parties on sequester: House Budget Committee Chairman Paul RyanPaul RyanGOP divided over care for transgender troops Want bipartisan health reform? Make the debate honest again Ex-CBO directors defend against GOP attacks on ObamaCare analysis MORE (R-Wis.) blamed Democrats when he predicted sequester “is going to happen,” saying they have rejected GOP proposals to avoid the cuts.

But Graham said Tuesday that both parties share in the blame.

“Here we are a month away, and if you believe the defense department ... they’re going to tell us we’re destroying the finest military in the history of the world at a time we need it most, and everybody is saying, 'well whatever' — I can’t explain it,” Graham told reporters Tuesday.

“It happened with both parties. Where did the party of Ronald Reagan go? How could we have agreed with sequestration to begin with?” he continued. “There seems to be a laissez-faire, lackadaisical attitude — what will be will be — at a time that the world is on fire.”

Graham’s ally in fighting the sequester said there was concern with Republicans who supported letting sequester happened, but he laid the blame for the lack of urgency in one place: the White House. “It requires presidential leadership,” Sen. John McCainJohn McCainSenate healthcare bill appears headed for failure Trump backers eye GOP primary challenges for Flake, Heller Manchin bashes GOP candidate for pushing McCain to resign MORE (R-Ariz.) said. 


In Case You Missed It:

— Hagel cuts ties with Chevron

— State says it’s still committed to closing Gitmo

— 9/11 conspirator delivers tirade at pre-trial hearing

— Sequester no longer ‘bad policy’ bogeyman


Please send tips and comments to Jeremy Herb, jherb@thehill.com, and Carlo Muñoz, cmunoz@thehill.com.

Follow us on Twitter: @DEFCONHill, @JHerbTheHill, @CMunozTheHill

You can sign up to receive this overnight update via email on The Hill’s homepage.