By Geneva Sands - 09/28/12 06:56 PM EDT
Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry (D-Mass.) admonished Republicans on Friday for trying to "exploit" the bipartisan letter sent to the Obama administration on Libya.
"Let me be crystal clear as chairman of that committee ... the Republicans are working overtime to try to exploit a very normal, run-of-the-course administrative letter that we agreed to on a bipartisan basis in our committee," said Kerry on MSNBC's "Andrea Mitchell Reports."
The letter, which was released Friday, offers no criticism of the administration but asks for more information about security safeguards at diplomatic posts that came under attack in Egypt, Libya and Yemen on Sept. 11 as well as any new information on threats to those and other U.S. missions abroad.
"We recognize that many of the matters may still be under analysis and investigation at that time," the letter reads, "but given the importance of these issues to all Committee members, even an interim response would be particularly helpful and much appreciated."
Sen. Bob Corker (Tenn.), the ranking member on Kerry's committee, on Thursday said Democrats and Republicans on the panel would be joining together in a letter pressing the administration for more information about the attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, that left U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens and three others dead.
Corker suggested the letter, which The Hill first reported on Thursday, would underline concerns across party lines about the administration's account of the incident.
But Kerry said the intent of the letter he is circulating is not to challenge the administration, but to get additional questions to the State Department that "are part of their already existing investigation."
"This is not a challenge, it is nothing new, it is not something out of the ordinary and I agreed to it as a matter of bipartisanship because we thought these were important questions that people ought to be examining," he added.
Pressed on whether he was concerned about the administration's handling of the situation in Libya, Kerry said he expected a lengthy investigation given complications on the ground.
Kerry praised Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for initiating an independent investigation into the attacks, which will be led by retired Ambassador Thomas Pickering and is due to Congress within 60 days of its announcement.