Sen. Lindsey Graham (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
By Mary Orndorff Troyan, Gannett Washington Bureau
WASHINGTON - Sen. Lindsey Graham said Monday he'll block Senate votes on President Barack Obama's nominees until Congress gets more information about the terrorist attack last year on the American consulate in Benghazi, Libya.
The South Carolina Republican, who in the past has said presidents are entitled to some deference on their picks for executive and judicial jobs, said he'll block Senate confirmation votes until survivors of the deadly attack are made available to Congress.
"I'm tired of hearing from people on TV and reading about stuff in books," Graham told the Fox News show Fox and Friends.
Asked if Graham wants the Benghazi witnesses to testify publicly or be interviewed privately by congressional investigators, Kevin Bishop, a spokesman for Graham said, "The names would be a start."
Graham has been a leading GOP critic of the Obama administration's handling of the Sept. 11, 2012, attack in Benghazi that killed four Americans, including Ambassador Chris Stevens. Congress is investigating security lapses before and during the attack, the speed of the response, and why the administration initially described the incident as a spontaneous escalation of a protest instead of a coordinated attack.
"We need to get to the bottom of this," Graham said.
Graham's threat, which he later repeated on Twitter, could slow the Senate's work for the remainder of the year. A few hours after his remarks, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada accused Republicans of obstruction, even after an agreement earlier this summer to bring several stalled nominations to a vote.
"Democrats have overcome filibusters of 66 of the president's nominees and Republicans have blocked or delayed many more with secret holds and procedural hurdles," Reid said.
White House spokesman Jay Carney said Monday the administration has responded to seven congressional committee investigations of Benghazi, testified at 13 hearings, provided 25,000 pages of documents and participated in 40 staff briefings. The administration has agreed security at the Benghazi compound was inadequate, and House Republicans have agreed the U.S. military did not have the resources in place to respond in time.
Also Monday, the Los Angeles Times reported that two State Department security guards who witnessed the attack were questioned earlier this month by investigators with the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. The two were subpoenaed and questioned for several hours each, according to the report.
Any senator can place a hold on any presidential nominee who requires Senate confirmation. Like filibusters, holds can be dismissed if 60 senators agree.
Depending on how long Graham's protest goes, it could affect two people who have been nominated to federal judgeships in South Carolina. The nominees have not yet received a hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Earlier this year, Graham said it was "wrong" for Republicans to block the nominee to head the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau just because they didn't like the law that created the agency. Left-leaning organizations that back Reid and Senate Democrats said Graham now appears to be changing his position on how Senate rules should be used.
"Depending on how Sen. Graham follows through on those comments, it certainly is an example of obstruction," said Michael Earls, a spokesman for Fix the Senate Now. "Making a qualified nominee's advancement subject to unrelated issues, that's under the header of what he articulated as something that is wrong."
Bishop, Graham's spokesman, said the senator had not changed his position. Graham used the hold to stall confirmation of a new CIA director in order to learn more details about the president's response to the Benghazi attacks, one of the few times the administration has responded to Graham's inquiries, Bishop said.