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Collins softens tone toward McCain


Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) this afternoon tried to smooth over tensions with fellow Republican Sen. John McCain after she was quoted in Politico noting his absence at a Senate Homeland Security and Government and Affairs briefing on Benghazi yesterday.

McCain was holding a press conference in the Senate gallery at the time of the private briefing that included officials from the State Department and the Intelligence Committee. 

McCain's office chalked it up to a "scheduling error" and aides say he made his displeasure to Collins known this morning.

She told NBC News that she believes McCain's call for a special Congressional committee to look into the Benghazi matter is not necessary, and he would be a valuable member of the Homeland Security Committee's own investigation. Collins is the top Republican on the committee.

"All I was trying to point out is that he's a very valuable member of our committee, so he would be involved in all the briefings, the hearings and investigation," she said. "And thus, I don't think that it's necessary to create a whole new separate committee. Our committee has a history of doing independent, bipartisan, comprehensive across-the-board investigations. We've done it on Fort Hood, on Hurricane Katrina, on a host of different issues. The only point I was trying to make -- apparently inartfully -- was that he and Lindsey Graham are members of the committee, so they will be fully involved, and I'm sure will play an important role."

McCain was joined by Sens. Graham and Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) at the Wednesday news conference announcing their resolution for a Select Committee during the time when the Benghazi briefing occurred.  

Critics have chided McCain for demanding more answers on Benghazi while missing an opportunity to learn more from the intelligence community. McCain's office said today that he would have attended.

McCain will attend today's closed-door hearing with senior intelligence officials and tomorrow's with former CIA Director David Petraeus.