In the Loop: Loopholes in Lindsey Graham’s Benghazi filibuster threat


Sen. Lindsey Graham’s vow to filibuster Obama nominees until he gets his Benghazi hearings may not be absolute. (Jonathan Ernst/REUTERS)
Al Kamen
Columnist November 11, 2013

Think Sen. Lindsey Graham’s continued threat to hold up all of the White House’s nominees means the Senate won’t be voting on any of President Obama’s picks?

It might not be so simple.

Al Kamen, an award-winning columnist on the national staff of The Washington Post, created the “In the Loop” column in 1993. View Archive

Not that getting through the Senate has ever been a cakewalk for any of the White House’s job candidates, but there are folks who still could see floor votes, despite Graham’s warning that he would block all nominees until the White House makes available for congressional testimony the witnesses who survived the deadly attack on the U.S. diplomatic outpost in Benghazi, Libya. (A threat he doubled down on over the weekend, even after “60 Minutes” retracted the segment that inspired his plan.)

First of all, the South Carolina Republican’s threat apparently applies only to new nominees teed up for Senate action (or, in legislative parlance, “placed on the Executive Calendar”). There were plenty of otherwise noncontroversial names on that list as of Oct. 28, when Graham first issued the threat.

Since that date, the Senate has approved nominees including Richard Griffin to the National Labor Relations Board and Tom Wheeler and Michael O’Rielly to the Federal Communications Commission. And Graham said Sunday on CNN that he had also released his hold on two additional ambassador nominations, which means they could get floor votes, too.

Graham’s bluster notwithstanding, Senate Democrats already figured that the toxic partisan atmosphere meant many of Obama’s picks would need 60 votes to cut off any debate and win approval.

If he remains unsatisfied on the Benghazi probe, Graham could very well hold up some high-profile nominations, including Jeh Johnson to head the Department of Homeland Security and Janet Yellen to be the new Fed chief.

But even if he doesn’t get his witnesses, there appears to be some wiggle room.

Charity, far from home

Before fiscal cliff, before sequester, before debt ceiling, before the craziness on the Hill — the United States proudly sent billions of dollars a year abroad to help developing countries.

And, despite all the trauma, we still do.

But now it appears a bit of that money is trickling back. For example, Turkey’s Agency for Cooperation and Collaboration (TIKA) — that country’s Agency for International Development — is giving a $200,000 grant to the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs Reservation of Oregon, southeast of Portland.

The grant is to help build a water tank as part of an elementary-school construction project and help folks out there “meet their water needs for the next 10 years,” according to an invite we got to a reception Tuesday evening at the residence of our NATO ally Turkey’s ambassador, Namik Tan.

The reception is to celebrate the grant, the first ever to “an entity within the United States,” the invitation says. It also “highlights the dire development needs of America’s tribal lands.”

Not that other countries haven’t extended help to Americans after a natural disaster — the United Arab Emirates this year after the devastating tornadoes in Joplin, Mo., for one. (And there’s that free-oil program/propaganda stunt that Venezuela’s lefty government has been doing for low-income folks here in winter.)

And it should be noted that Turkey and Native Americans have long felt a kinship based on feelings of a shared ancestry.

But still . . .

Guess it’s time to find some worthy program out there to highlight the dire development needs of the Kurds?

Never say die

If Benjamin Franklin had run a political action committee, he might have said that nothing is certain but death, taxes and Federal Election Commission filings.

The agency tasked with overseeing campaign spending recently wrote to an Ohio-based organization called Friends of Charlie Wilson, telling the PAC that despite its request to shut down, it had to keep submitting filings.

One not-so-small problem with this picture?

The PAC’s namesake, former congressman Charlie Wilson (D-Ohio), died in April.

The FEC said the PAC couldn’t terminate, citing unspecified errors or omissions in its request to do so. “Failure to adequately respond by the response date noted above could result in an audit or enforcement action,” it warned.

But can you audit the dead?

But no Benjamin Gazi

More nominations from the White House: Last week, President Obama upped Neil Kornze, a former aide to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), from deputy director of the Bureau of Land Management to director. Other picks included the Justice Department’s Caroline Diane Krass to be the CIA’s general counsel and Ericka Miller, an executive at the Education Trust, to be the Education Department's assistant secretary for postsecondary education.

With Emily Heil

The blog: washingtonpost.com/
intheloop
. Twitter: @InTheLoopWP.

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