WASHINGTON: In a broad exercise of the senatorial privilege of temporarily stopping a nomination, known as a “hold,” Sen. Lindsey Graham announced this morning that he will not allow any Obama administration nominations to proceed.until he is told the names of those he calls the “Benghazi survivors.”
— Breaking Defense (@BreakingDefense) October 28, 2013
Senators usually hold up a single nomination to send a policy message to an administration. The escalation of the long-simmering debate about the importance of the Benghazi attack and the administration’s handling of its aftermath places the nomination of the new Air Force Secretary back on hold only days after Sen. Kelly Ayotte lifted her hold on Debbie Lee James sparked by concerns about the fate of the A-10. This is pretty ironic, since Graham is a colonel in the Air Force Reserve.
A Graham spokesman told Breaking Defense that senators do not know the names of the so-called Benghazi survivors. Graham’s decision was apparently prompted by a “60 Minutes” report last night that claimed more than 24 Americans who survived the attack have, effectively, vanished. Much of the Bengazi site, was, as most people know by now, used by the CIA.
That will complicate efforts by senators to learn the names and identities of the survivors. Many of the survivors are CIA employees who presumably do not wish their names known. I asked Graham spokesman Kevin Bishop if his boss had a plan for dealing with this and would accept something like closed (aka secure) hearings. “We haven’t gotten that far yet,” he emailed.
Sen. Carl Levin, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, had no comment on Graham’s action, his spokeswoman said in an email. That would seem to indicate that Levin does not want to heat things up by criticizing Graham, a fellow SASC committee member.
The Air Force leadership must be gnashing its teeth. Just after Ayotte lifted her hold, Graham comes along and puts the kibosh on it. How long Graham is willing to stand tall and resist criticism that he is impairing the government’s ability to function — especially the Air Force, so in need of a civilian leader at a crucial budget time — will be interesting to watch. Levin’s silence may indicate Democrats think Graham has a point and are willing to let the administration stew for a bit.
I’ve emailed the Pentagon to find out how many civilian nominations this will place on hold. Once we get an answer we’ll update the story.