This time, the delay didn’t come from Republicans, and not even Democratic back-benchers. The White House took a body blow today when Senate Intelligence Committee chair Dianne Feinstein pushed off the confirmation vote of John Brennan for CIA Director by at least two weeks. Feinstein wants the Obama administration to turn over seven memos related to drones and targeted assassinations, which the White House has thus far refused to do:
A Senate confirmation vote on John O. Brennan as CIA director has been postponed for at least two weeks as lawmakers step up pressure on the Obama administration to provide more information about its drone campaign against terrorism suspects.
In particular, Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) said Wednesday that she is seeking seven Justice Department memos related to the administration’s targeted killing program, in addition to four the committee has been allowed to view. …
Feinstein had initially indicated that a vote on Brennan would be held this week. But she said that, under committee rules, members “have the ability to object to a vote on the nomination until after Thursday, so the vote will be delayed.” …
In addition, Feinstein said, “members on both sides of the aisle have asked that certain information . . . be provided to the committee” — a sign of deep divisions with the administration over congressional oversight of intelligence matters.
This comes less than two days after Barack Obama promised to make the drone-assassination program “even more transparent to the American people and the world.” So far, though, they can’t even make it transparent to the Senate. The White House claims that the memos sought by the committee either don’t exist or were superseded by later memos already provided to the committee. However, committee members of both parties apparently don’t believe the White House and are standing firm on their demands.
So much for transparency — and credibility. If Obama’s fellow Democrats on the Senate Intelligence Committee don’t believe him on the drone program, why should anyone else?
That’s not the only confirmation that’s now in jeopardy, either. CNN reports that the White House may not have enough votes to end a filibuster on Chuck Hagel, where John McCain switched sides to get more answers on another intelligence issue:
Chuck Hagel’s bid to lead the Pentagon faces an uncertain outcome on a critical vote Friday as Democrats attempt to break a GOP filibuster of the defense secretary nominee.
Despite optimism from administration officials, who believe Hagel will get the five GOP votes he needs to end the filibuster, senior congressional sources in both parties are less positive. They told CNN they now are not sure he will get the votes.
Doubts were raised Wednesday after Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, said he was reconsidering his pledge not to filibuster Hagel because the Obama administration was refusing to provide key details about the president’s actions on the night of the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi. …
“I’ve always said I just want an answer to the question,” McCain explained. “We deserve answers before we move forward with nominees. That’s been the standard I’ve pursued for the past 26 years.”
We noted this yesterday, but this could have a snowball effect. If McCain has switched to supporting a filibuster, there probably won’t be one Republican other than Susan Collins who will cross him. That makes 44 votes for keeping debate open. Combined with the bipartisan balk on Brennan, the momentum may make it impossible for the White House to continue stonewalling on both Benghazi and drones.