WASHINGTON — The Senate Intelligence Committee voted Tuesday to approve President Barack Obama’s pick to lead the CIA after winning a behind-the-scenes battle with the White House over access to a series of top-secret legal opinions that justify the use of lethal drone strikes against terror suspects, including American citizens.
John Brennan’s installation at the spy agency has been delayed as Senate Democrats and Republicans have pressed the Obama administration to allow a review of the classified documents prepared by the Justice Department. The senators have argued they can’t perform adequate oversight without reviewing the contents of the opinions, but the White House had resisted requests for full disclosure.
The intelligence committee’s chairwoman, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., said in a statement Tuesday that the committee voted 12-3 to send Brennan’s nomination to the full Senate for confirmation. The panel’s deliberations were held behind closed doors. Feinstein said all eight Democrats on the committee voted yes. She did not identify the Republican senators who voted against him.
Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., the committee vice chairman, said he voted against Brennan because he didn’t think Brennan would create the kind of “trust relationship” between Congress and the CIA. He did not specify what his concerns were, however. But Chambliss said he would not encourage other Republican senators to attempt a filibuster of the nomination.
“He’ll probably be confirmed,” Chambliss said.