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U.S. senator vows to block Yellen, Johnson nominations

Wednesday, 30 Oct 2013 | 3:08 PM ET

WASHINGTON, Oct 30 (Reuters) - A senior Republican U.S. senator vowed on Wednesday to block confirmation of President Barack Obama's nominees to head the Federal Reserve and the Department of Homeland Security if the administration does not provide more information about the 2012 attack on U.S. diplomatic facilities in Benghazi, Libya.

Senator Lindsey Graham said he would put a hold on the nomination of Janet Yellen to head the Fed and Jeh Johnson to take the homeland security post as a last resort after trying repeatedly to get more information on the Benghazi matter.

"That is the only leverage we have," the South Carolina Republican told a news conference.

Republicans and Democrats have been waging a political battle over Benghazi since militants linked to al Qaeda affiliates attacked U.S. diplomatic outposts and killed Christopher Stevens, the U.S. ambassador to Libya, and three other Americans on Sept. 11 of last year.

Republicans say the attacks exposed security lapses that must be addressed. Some also accuse Democrats of a cover-up to protect Obama as he ran for re-election in 2012 as well as then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, considered a leading 2016 Democratic presidential candidate.

Graham is not the only Republican threatening to hold up Yellen's nomination. Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky threatened to place a "hold" on the nomination unless a vote is held on his proposal to require greater transparency at the U.S. central bank.

To end a hold on a nominee, Democrat Harry Reid, the Senate majority leader, would need to muster the support of at least 60 of the Senate's 100 members. Democrats now control the Senate, 54-46.

Graham and five other Republican lawmakers at the news conference said they were motivated by a desire to hold accountable whoever was responsible for the Benghazi attacks, not politics.

"We're demanding action, not because we're Republicans, but because the nation needs to know," he said.

Some Republicans have been calling for survivors of the attack to appear before Congress. The administration says eyewitnesses are likely to testify in any criminal trial, and that appearing in Congress could put their lives at risk and weaken the prosecutors' case.

The White House has said it has responded to repeated requests from Congress for more information about Benghazi, noting that one of the diplomatic security agents who survived the attack has testified to a House of Representatives committee.