Senate Republicans pressed for more answers Thursday on what led to the Sept. 11 attack on the U.S. mission in Benghazi - with their focus squarely on Secretary of State Hillary Clinton who will testify to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee next month.
At a committee hearing Thursday, Sen. Bob Corker, R- Tenn., slated to be the senior Republican on the panel in 2013, said it is "imperative that she come before this committee" and "it would be really a shame to turn the page" on the Benghazi attack without her testimony.
He asked why Clinton had not asked Congress before the attack to allow her to re-allocate State Department funding to ensure the Benghazi facility was secure.
And Sen. Marco Rubio, R- Fla., a potential 2016 presidential contender, said it was "puzzling" that the report from the Accountability Review Board Clinton appointed to investigate the attack places blame only on lower-level officials for giving insufficient attention to the security risks in Benghazi.
"There's a lot of questions to be answered, including some that only Secretary Clinton can answer," Rubio told NBC News after he left the hearing. "We need to know beyond the assistant secretary level -- where the report places most of the blame -- what did these senior officials know after the repeated meetings (with the Libyan prime minster and other Libyan officials). Libya was not some remote outpost somewhere... It was a place that the U.S. was heavily engaged in militarily."
He said the possibility that the deteriorating security situation in Benghazi did not come up in meetings between Clinton and the Libyan officials or in meetings between other State Department officials and the Libyans "is deeply troubling to me." How, he asked, could the security issue not "be predominant" in Clinton's dealings with the Libyan government?
Clinton has been out of the public eye for several days due to illness and a concussion she suffered after fainting.
Substituting for Clinton in testimony before the committee Thursday was Deputy Secretary of State William Burns.
"All of you who know Hillary know that she would rather be here today," said committee chairman Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., who is likely to be President Barack Obama's nominee to replace Clinton. "I assure you it is not her choice she is not here today and she looks forward to appearing before the committee in January. I want to make that clear."
Burns told the committee that the State Department has "already begun to fix" the security lapses that allowed the Benghazi attack to succeed. In the attack Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans, Glen Doherty, Tyrone Woods, and Sean Smith, were killed.
Eric Boswell, the assistant secretary of state for the Bureau of Diplomatic Security has resigned and three other officials have been relieved of duty, the department said late Wednesday.
Burns told the committee that report by the Accountability Review Board (ARB) "takes a clear-eyed look at serious, systemic problems. Problems which are unacceptable. Problems for which - as Secretary Clinton has said -- we take responsibility."
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