WASHINGTON (AP) — The squabble over Hillary Rodham Clinton's emails has hit the Senate.
A GOP committee chairman is using one of the tools of the Senate to try to extract information from the State Department related to Clinton's email practices, prompting complaints from Senate Democrats.
Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles Grassley of Iowa is blocking 22 of President Barack Obama's nominees to State Department jobs. He says the agency's refusal to respond to his requests for information regarding Clinton's email server while she was secretary of state left him no choice but to do so.
The stance prompted complaints on the Senate floor this week from Minority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada, who accused Grassley of political motivations against the Democratic presidential front-runner.
"Why are non-partisan public servants being used as political pawns?" Reid asked. "Especially if they're being blocked just because Senator Grassley doesn't want Hillary Clinton to be the next president of the United States."
Grassley, in turn, took to the Senate floor to defend himself, contending that his investigation has nothing to do with politics. He's looking into various areas including how Clinton's use of a private email server and personal address affected Freedom of Information Act compliance.
"My oversight and investigations unit is involved in many investigations. The vast majority of them have nothing to do with Secretary Clinton," Grassley said. "Looking out for the public interest isn't a waste of time, and I'll keep at it regardless of misguided attacks on my motivations or mischaracterizations of my work."
Most of the congressional focus on Clinton's emails has taken place in the House, where the issue has become a focus for the special committee set up to investigate the attacks in Benghazi, Libya that left four Americans dead three years ago.
Grassley's moves involve an oft-used but somewhat obscure tool available to senators who don't like what the administration is doing: they can put a "hold" on presidential nominees, blocking them from quick action on the floor.
Grassley's State Department holds are just one example. Republican Sen. Pat Roberts of Kansas has a hold on Obama's nominee for secretary of the Army to head off any attempt to move Guantanamo detainees to his state. And Republican Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas also announced holds against State Department nominees earlier this year because of his objections to the Iran nuclear agreement.