Sen. Lindsey Graham said Wednesday he will “hold” every future Obama nominee, creating a hurdle for them to reach the Senate floor, until President Obama and the State Department allow Congress to hear from those who were on the ground during last year’s Benghazi terrorist attack.
Joined by fellow Republicans, the South Carolina senator said there are still too many unanswered questions about the attack nearly 14 months after it occurred, and said he’s still not satisfied with the White House’s explanation for why it initially said the two-pronged terrorist assault was actually a mob protest against an anti-Islam video.
The Republicans said they’ve been denied the chance to ask questions of the diplomats and security personnel who survived the attack or even to look at the transcripts of the FBI’s interviews with those personnel in the immediate aftermath.
“Simply put, why can’t we talk to the people who were attacked,” Mr. Graham said.
Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens, a diplomatic aide and two former Navy SEALs were killed in the attacks. Nobody has yet been arrested, though an indictment was filed against one suspect in August.
The Obama administration has said it has already answered questions about State Department security at the diplomatic post in Benghazi, and has been reluctant to grant access to those who were on the ground, telling reporters it could jeopardize the ongoing criminal investigation aimed at nabbing those responsible for the attack.
A “hold” on nominations in the Senate is an informal process of notifying leaders that a senator intends to object to bringing that person’s nomination to the floor for a vote. It can be overcome, but only by going through a time-consuming process of holding a vote to defeat a filibuster.
Mr. Graham said his hold applies to all future nominees not already slated for votes. That would include Jeh Johnson, Mr. Obama’s nominee to head the Homeland Security Department, and Janet Yellen whom he has nominated to be chairwoman of the Federal Reserve.
Mr. Graham said he didn’t want to have to hold nominees, but defended the tactic as the only tool that has produced results from the White House. Earlier this year, Mr. Graham placed a hold on the president’s nominee to head the CIA until he got the administration to answer a question about Mr. Obama’s communications surrounding the Benghazi attack.