WASHINGTON -- Senate Republicans have questioned Chuck Hagel's truthfulness and they've challenged his patriotism.
Now they're threatening to stonewall his nomination to be President Barack Obama's defense secretary unless the White House gives them more information about what Obama was doing on the night of the deadly attack on the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., has set the stage for a full Senate vote on Hagel, a former two-term Republican senator from Nebraska and twice-wounded Vietnam combat veteran. Reid filed a motion Wednesday to limit debate and force a vote, which is expected to be held Friday. While Democrats hold a 55-45 edge in the Senate and have the numbers to confirm Hagel on a majority vote, they need the support of five Republicans to clear the way for an up-or-down vote on him.
Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said he'll vote against ending debate on Hagel's nomination and Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., may join him if the White House doesn't tell them whether Obama spoke to any Libyan government official during the assault and requested assistance for the American personnel at the mission. U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans died in the raid last September at the compound in Benghazi.
"There seems to not be much interest to hold this president accountable for a national security breakdown that led to the first ambassador being killed in the line of duty in over 30 years," Graham said. "No, the debate on Chuck Hagel is not over. It has not been serious. We don't have the information we need. And I'm going to fight the idea of jamming somebody through until we get answers about what the president did personally when it came to the Benghazi debacle."
Reconsidering Europe command: Officials said Marine Gen. John Allen, who just left a 19-month command in Afghanistan, is undecided about becoming the U.S. military's top soldier in Europe after being linked to -- and cleared of -- a sex scandal that felled former CIA director David Petraeus. Allen was nominated last fall for the coveted job overseeing U.S. and NATO forces in Europe. But it was shelved during a Pentagon investigation into emails Allen exchanged with a civilian woman who was linked to the scandal that forced Petraeus to resign. Allen since has been cleared of wrongdoing. Allen's spokesman would not say whether the general was reconsidering the job.
Senators delay Brennan CIA vote: The Senate intelligence committee is delaying a vote to confirm John Brennan as director of the CIA as it demands more details from the White House about lethal drone strikes and last year's attack in Benghazi, Libya, that left the U.S. ambassador and three Americans dead. The committee's Democratic chairwoman, Dianne Feinstein, said in a statement Wednesday that senators need to see more classified legal opinions that justify using the drones to kill al-Qaida suspects overseas, including American citizens.
Releases college cost website: The White House is releasing a website designed to help college-bound students have a better sense of how much their education will cost and how much they can expect to pay in student loans. President Barack Obama promised the tool during Tuesday's State of the Union speech and Education Department officials published the data early Wednesday. On the website, potential students and their parents can see a typical student's out-of-pocket costs, as well as what percentage of students graduate. The searchable database also lets students compare the rates at which graduates default on their student loans against the national average of 13 percent, and how much the typical student pays each month in student loans.
Vow to push cyber legislation: Obama administration officials and lawmakers agreed Wednesday that America is losing an aggressive cyber-espionage campaign waged from China. They vowed to push legislation that would make it easier for the government and industry to share information about who is getting hacked and what to do about it. They say this new partnership, codified by law and buoyed by President Barack Obama's new executive order, is critical to keeping countries like China, Russia and even Iran from rummaging in American computer networks and targeting proprietary data they can use to wreak havoc or compete against U.S. businesses. The pledge from legislators and Obama's top security aides already has special interest groups scrambling to influence the outcome, which remains uncertain in a bitterly divided Congress focused on other high-priority issues like immigration and gun control.
Push for trans-Atlantic trade deal: The European Union and the United States announced Wednesday that they have agreed to pursue talks aimed at achieving an overarching trans-Atlantic free trade deal. The 27-country EU said such an agreement, first announced in Tuesday's State of the Union address by President Barack Obama, would be the biggest bilateral trade deal ever negotiated. Any agreement could boost the EU's economic output by 0.5 percent and the U.S.'s by 0.7 percent, according to some estimates. That would be a highly desirable outcome when the EU and the U.S. are both struggling with slow growth, high unemployment and high levels of debt.
GM makes personnel moves: General Motors Co. said Wednesday that Nick Cyprus, its vice president, chief accounting officer and controller, has decided to retire. Cyprus' retirement is effective July 15. He will be replaced by Thomas Timko, effective March 18. Cyprus was named chief accounting officer and controller in 2006 and added the title of vice president in 2009. Timko, 44, most recently served as corporate vice president, chief accounting officer and corporate controller at Applied Materials Inc. Before joining that company in 2010, he served as chief accounting officer and controller at Delphi Automotive for four years.