Here’s what members of the Pa. delegation had to say during Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s Wednesday testimony about the terrorist attack in Benghazi, Libya.
Democrats mostly offered warm words for the outgoing Secretary and prospective 2016 presidential hopeful. Republicans generally hammered her over her department’s handling of the security situation on the ground and the four American lives lost – including U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens.
Senator Bob Casey, a member of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, had the first crack from the Keystone state. It was a lovefest.
“I want to express what I think is a widely shared sentiment today, both by way of gratitude and commendation for your work. We don’t have time today to fully list of all the achievements that you should get credit for,” he said. He asked how Congress could help State.
Clinton returned the sentiment.
“Thank you for those three topics you covered, and particularly your very clear focus on the IED problem and the ammonium nitrate problem in Pakistan. You and I have talked about this. You’ve gone there, I’ve gone there and carried that message and I thank you for making it an issue,” she said.
Clinton said that Congress could help by providing funding for security enhancements at U.S. embassies and outposts abroad.
Casey is the chairman of the Near Eastern and South and Central Asian Affairs Subcommittee in the Senate, with jurisdiction over many trouble spots in the Middle East and North Africa.
On the House side, Rep. Tom Marino (R-Lycoming) is one of two Pa. members in the House Committee on Foreign Affairs. He was far less warm.
He used photos to illustrate a link between a distinct black flag and al-Qaeda uprisings throughout the Middle East (including Libya). This link had been noted in a pre-Benghazi Department of Defense report.
“My point is this flag kept coming up,” Marino said to Clinton, “And you did not think that that was important enough to increase security when after how many embassies was this flag shown in demonstrations? I personally think that it would demand an increase in security.”
Marino also questioned the State Department’s retention of three workers believed to be culpable for the Benghazi intelligence disaster. Clinton clarified, stating that the three were on administrative leave, but still being paid due to federal regulations.
Marino’s response was quick and direct: “What is the hold-up in saying you let me down — I no longer need your services?”
Freshman Rep. Scott Perry (R-York) is also a member of the committee, but did not question Clinton.
And just for fun, former Rep. Joe Sestak (D-Delaware) also threw in his two cents. He’s a former admiral, former U.S. Senate hopeful, prospective future candidate, and staunch Clinton ally.
He appeared on MSNBC’s The Ed Show where he said that it was wrong for Congress to point fingers at Clinton despite pleas for increased security from diplomats to the State Department.
While asserting that the Benghazi hearings “shouldn’t be about partisanship,” Sestak blamed Congress generally for reducing appropriations for diplomatic security. for the lack of Benghazi security. The former SEPA Congressman also called Sen. Rand Paul’s (R-Kentucky) statement that would have “relieved [Clinton] of [her] post,” “so out of line.”