US Secretary of Defence Leon Panetta
US Secretary of Defence Leon PanettaReuters

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta will testify before the Senate Armed Services Committee regarding the September 11 attack on the United States embassy in Benghazi, Fox News confirmed.

The decision may remove one of the impediments to the confirmation of former Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.), President Obama’s nominee to replace Panetta as secretary of defense.

Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) said earlier this week that he would block Hagel’s confirmation hearings until Panetta testifies on the September 11 attack in Benghazi, which resulted in the brutal death of four Americans, including U.S. ambassador Christopher Stevens.

“I'm going to block Hagel from going forward until (Panetta) does,” the Republican senator from South Carolina told Fox News. “Why would we not want to understand what happened during the attack?”

At the beginning of Hagel's confirmation hearing Thursday, Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin, D-Mich., announced that the panel would hold a hearing on the Benghazi attack next month. While he did not specify whether Panetta would testify, the reports had later been confirmed to the media.

Graham has been among the most vocal and persistent Republican lawmakers in calling for answers and accountability from the Obama administration on its handling of events leading up to the attack, as well as its response to the brutal assault.

Graham, who has also been an outspoken critic of Hagel, said his decision on the nomination will depend on what he says during the hearings in the Democrat-controlled Senate, "but the one thing I'm not going to do is vote on a new secretary of defense until the old secretary of defense, Leon Panetta, whom I like very much, testifies."