Senate panel vote on CIA nominee Brennan likely to be delayed

WASHINGTON, Feb 13 (Reuters) - The Senate Intelligence Committee is likely to delay until the last week of February a vote on the confirmation of John Brennan as CIA director, congressional sources said on Wednesday.

Democrats on the committee had hoped to hold a vote on Brennan's nomination on Thursday, following a public hearing last week and a closed-door hearing on Tuesday at which Brennan testified before the panel.

However, political issues and procedural rules have made a Thursday vote problematic, said the sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Democrats and Republicans are using the timing of the vote to pressure the Obama administration to release sensitive papers to the committee.

Democrats want the White House to give them access to more documents, prepared by the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel, outlining legal justifications and operational rules for drone strikes targeted against militants, including suspects who are American citizens.

Before last week's hearing, the White House gave committee members tightly restricted access to two classified legal opinions on drone strikes.

But in a statement on Wednesday, Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Senator Dianne Feinstein said the committee was pressing for disclosure of seven more opinions, plus "any other relevant documents."

Senators also want the administration to allow committee staffers and not just lawmakers to read the documents, she said.

Meanwhile, committee Republicans have indicated they intend to press the White House to disclose a full written record outlining the evolution of "talking points" on the attacks by militants on U.S. facilities in Benghazi, Libya, last Sept. 11.

Administration critics say the talking points misleadingly played down early suspicions that Islamic militants were behind the attacks.

Congressional sources said that the administration initially had promised to turn over the records, but later backed off, asserting that the documents were "deliberative" and thus exempt from disclosure.

Committee rules say that votes should not be held until at least 48 hours after an official transcript is produced of confirmation hearings.

Based on this technicality, two sources said, there was a concern that the transcript of Tuesday's closed-door hearing with Brennan would not be completed in time for a vote on his nomination Thursday.

Because Congress is on a holiday recess next week, the earliest the committee could vote on the nomination is now expected to be the week after next, an official said. The White House had no immediate comment. (Reporting By Mark Hosenball; Editing by Xavier Briand)