By Ted Barrett, Senior Congressional Producer
The Senate broke another Republican filibuster on Monday in confirming former top Pentagon lawyer Jeh Johnson to head the Homeland Security Department.
The vote to approve Johnson, a key architect of President Barack Obama's anti-terrorism policies that have included stepped up drone use in terrorist hotspots, was 78-16.
By Ted Barrett and Greg Botelho
Secretary of State John Kerry took his case on Wednesday to Capitol Hill, urging Congress not to impose new sanctions on Iran as talks with that country on its nuclear program heat up.
"Our hope is that no new sanctions would be put in place for the simple reason that, if they are, it could be viewed as bad faith by the people we are negotiating with," Kerry said before entering a closed-door briefing with members of the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee.
"It could destroy the ability to be able to get agreement," he added, "and it could actually wind up setting us back in dialogue that's taken 30 years to achieve."
There's likely to be push-back to the diplomat's move, as several in Congress who still don't trust Iran's leaders have said they want fresh sanctions to keep up the pressure.FULL STORY
By Ted Barrett
Despite bitter partisanship that threatened a government shutdown, Congress actually managed to come together to pass one bill on Monday –unanimously, at that.
The Senate signed off on a House-approved measure to ensure members of the military would continue to get paid if congressional wrangling over spending and Obamacare resulted in a shutdown.
But it would also shield lawmakers from having to explain why men and women on the front lines would not be paid with federal agencies spending less money or none at all, even as House and Senate members keep getting their checks.
By Ted Barrett
The U.S. government has identified "a certain number of people" believed involved in the Benghazi, Libya, attack, a senior Republican lawmaker told CNN on Tuesday.
The lawmaker said that government investigators have put identities to individuals seen in surveillance video of the attack.
"They know the names. That's what we haven't known. These are individuals they know now. Not just the pictures," the senior lawmaker said.
The lawmaker, who is familiar with the status of the investigation, could not say how many had been identified.
Just last week, Attorney General Eric Holder hinted there were developments in the investigation. FULL POST
The nomination of the president's pick to be ambassador to Iraq appeared to be in jeopardy Thursday as Senate Democrats raised concerns about recent revelations of questionable conduct, reports CNN's Ted Barrett and Paul Courson.
The Democratic chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee said he is "evaluating" controversies surrounding Brett McGurk and may postpone a scheduled committee vote on the nomination next Tuesday.
"I need to talk to senators and evaluate where we are," Sen. John Kerry told CNN. "People have become aware of things they weren't, so we have to evaluate."
By Ted Barrett
Sen. John McCain on Tuesday accused Democrats of "hypocrisy" for opposing the appointment of a special counsel to investigate recent national security leaks, saying they supported such independent investigations in the past when Republicans were in the White House.
McCain's comments came on the same day he pushed for a Senate vote calling for a special counsel but was blocked by Democrats. He spoke to reporters after being told Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein, D-California, preferred the investigation be carried out by two U.S. attorneys appointed by Attorney General Eric Holder.
"I am shocked, shocked. I am shocked to hear Sen. Feinstein now opposes" a special counsel, McCain said in a voice thick with sarcasm.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, defended the Democrats' handling of the leaks and said it was the actions of Republicans like McCain that are "strictly political."
Read the full CNN.com story here.
Kerry adamant White House not involved in intelligence leaks
By Ted Barrett
The Democratic chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee said he is “really upset” about recent leaks of classified information because it “endangers our long-term security” and it “begs retaliation.” But Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts was adamant that no one at the White House or in Democratic politics was involved in the leaks.
“I know that people at the White House were not involved,” he said.
Asked about suggestions from Sen. John McCain of Arizona and other Republicans that the leaks came from someone trying to boost the president’s political standing, Kerry said they are wrong. FULL POST
Senators got a taste Wednesday night of what Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta has called his worst nightmare, a cyber attack on the on the United States' infrastructure.
Senior officials from the Obama administration briefed assembled senators on a hypothetical scenario, said National Security Spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden. The briefing, at the request of the senators, was intended "to provide all Senators with an appreciation for new legislative authorities that could help the U.S. Government prevent and more quickly respond to cyber attacks," according to Hayden. FULL POST
By Ted Barrett and Kate Bolduan
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told U.S. senators he has not decided whether to strike nuclear sites in Iran, according to two Democratic senators who attended a meeting with him in the Capitol Tuesday.
“They say they haven’t made a decision and I take them at face value,” Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts, the chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee said after the meeting.” “But I think they are making very clear their distinction between the U.S. perception of timing and theirs.” FULL POST
By Adam Levine
After initially threatening a veto, the White House has issued a statement saying changes made by the House and Senate regarding controversial detainee provisions are sufficient and advisors will no longer advise the president to veto the 2012 Defense Authorization bill if it passes the House and Senate.
The detainee provision sought to codify rules that would mandate that the military would hold in custody and try terror suspects. That concerned the White House and many lawmakers who think the responsibility belongs, in part, to law enforcement agencies and the federal courts and warned that Americans could possibly be detained indefinitely by the military.
The White House reversal comes on the same day that the FBI Director Robert Mueller told a Senate committee hearing that while some of the changes are helpful, the provisions regarding what happens at the time of an arrest "lack clarity" and did not address all of his concerns about the ability to gain cooperation after an arrest.
"It lacks clarity with regard to what happens if - we had a case in Lackawanna, New York, and an arrest has to be made there and there's no military within several hundred miles," Mueller said.
Mueller said it is an issue too when FBI and military can both be on the scene.
"My concern is that you do not want to have FBI agents and military showing up at the scene at the same time on a covered person or with a covered person. There may be some uncovered persons there with some uncertainty as to who has the role and who is gonna do what," Mueller noted. FULL POST