Rand Paul skips hearing on State funding, hits Clinton on Benghazi

Washington CNN —  

Sen. Rand Paul on Wednesday skipped out on a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing, instead appearing on a radio program blasting Hillary Clinton’s handling of the Benghazi terror attacks.

The topic of the hearing?

Funding for the State Department, including requests for funds “that will allow us to improve the safety and security of U.S. citizens, government employees and facilities overseas,” according to Heather Higginbottom, deputy secretary of state for management and resources, who testified on Wednesday.

READ: Jeb Bush big fan of NSA surveillance

Instead of attending his committee hearing, the 2016 Republican presidential candidate spent his time blasting Clinton as “oblivious” to and denying requests for additional security at the Benghazi consulate. The compound was later attacked by terrorists who killed several diplomats there, including U.S. Ambassador to Libya Chris Stephens.

“The Benghazi thing is going to be very difficult for (Clinton) to dig out of that hole because people want their president to be someone who will defend American missions, diplomatic missions around the world,” Paul, who was in Washington Wednesday, told WVLK radio that morning.

The hearing was scheduled to start at 9:30 a.m. and lasted about an hour and half, according to the committee’s website. Paul’s radio interview was at 10:30 a.m., according to the show’s host, Lee Cruse.

“And the fact that she, with repeated requests for security there, denied those requests and appears really to be oblivious to the final request from Ambassador Stevens in months before he was killed I think really that goes to poor judgment and I think ultimately will preclude her from really being considered seriously for commander in chief,” Paul said.

Paul’s campaign staff referred requests for comment to his Senate office, which dismissed the notion the senator was neglecting his duties.

“Sen. Paul’s attendance does not accurately represent his participation or involvement in defense and foreign policy issues. As always, Sen. Paul will continue to remain extremely vigilant of the issues affecting Americans at home and abroad,” said Jillian Lane, a spokeswoman from Paul’s Senate office, in a statement.

The hearing would have also been an opportunity for Paul to question Higginbottom, who is effectively the State Department’s chief operations officer, about funding to secure U.S. embassies and consulates abroad. Members on both sides of the aisle brought up Benghazi during the hearing.

And Higginbottom addressed the Benghazi attacks, calling ‘the safety and security of our personnel and facilities … of critical importance” and pointing out that the State Department conducted a “full-scale review” of safety protocol.

The Benghazi attacks have become a stalwart attack line against Clinton, the frontrunner for the Democratic nomination. Clinton has called the attacks there the “biggest” regret of her tenure at the State Department.