International Law

Senator Graham's Threat to Block Hagel/Brennan Nominations

By John Bellinger
Monday, February 11, 2013, 9:37 AM

Senator Lindsey Graham threatened yesterday to block confirmation of Chuck Hagel and John Brennan unless President Obama provides more information about his knowledge of the Benghazi attacks.

I have great respect for Senator Graham, a staunch conservative and strong military supporter who has tried to build bipartisan bridges on many national security and international issues.

But blocking the confirmation of the Secretary of Defense and the CIA Director during a period of armed conflict with al Qaida is not a good idea.

One of the recommendations of the 9-11 Commission was that the Senate should act quickly to confirm top national security officials during a transition:

Recommendation: Since a catastrophic attack could occur with little or no notice, we should minimize as much as possible the disruption of national security policymaking during the change of administrations by accelerating the process for national security appointments. We think the process could be improved significantly so transitions can work more effectively and allow new officials to assume their new responsibilities as quickly as possible.

Although the 9-11 Commission recommendation was directed at confirmations during changes in Administrations, the wisdom holds true during transitions under the same President. 

Senator Graham, who may face a primary challenge in South Carolina in 2014, understandably wants the White House to provide more information about Benghazi.  But it would be unwise for the Senate to hold up the nominations of the Secretary of Defense and CIA Director during a time of war.