Despite Democratic complaints, Republicans jumped into a new election-season investigation of the deadly Benghazi assault on Friday, naming majority members of a special House committee. Democrats mulled a boycott of the panel, which is inspiring bitter partisanship before even starting its work.
House Speaker John Boehner immediately took to social media to highlight his seven-member Republican team. Democrats have five seats to fill, if they decide to participate at all in what Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi derided as a “political stunt.”
“For whatever reason, everything seems to be partisan,” acknowledged Rep. Trey Gowdy, a second-term Republican and former prosecutor from South Carolina whom Boehner picked last week to head the committee. Gowdy expressed his hope that a fair Benghazi investigation would transcend politics, but he also suggested Democrats would have to accept that “one side gets more strikes than the other side when you’re constituting a jury.”
The Republicans’ roster includes veterans of previous House examinations of the Sept. 11, 2012, attack that killed a U.S. ambassador and three other Americans.
The House approved the formation of the committee Thursday, with every Republican voting in favor and only seven Democrats crossing party lines to join them. It is the eighth investigation thus far on Benghazi. The panel is authorized to work through the end of the year, past November’s midterm elections when the GOP hopes to win control of the Senate.
The Benghazi attack has become a conservative rallying cry, with Republicans accusing the Obama administration of intentionally misleading the public about the nature of the attack and stonewalling congressional investigators.
The rest of Boehner’s team includes four members of Congress who have investigated Benghazi already: the Intelligence Committee’s Lynn Westmoreland of Georgia and Mike Pompeo of Kansas, the Foreign Affairs Committee’s Jim Jordan of Ohio, and Martha Roby of Alabama, until recently an Armed Services Committee member. The others are Susan Brooks of Indiana and Peter Roskam of Illinois.
Democrats weighed their options as Pelosi sought a meeting with Boehner to discuss the operating rules of the special investigation.
Boehner has rejected the Democrats’ request for equal membership on the panel. Democrats say they’ll participate nonetheless if they get GOP guarantees of fair access to documents, a voice on subpoenas and an equal chance to question witnesses. They say Republicans denied them such rights in a separate Benghazi probe.
“We must have standards,” Pelosi said at a news conference after Democrats held a strategy session Friday morning. Later, in a letter to Boehner, she held firm to her objections, saying the current rules would not prevent a repeat of the “unacceptable and repeated abuses” that she said have occurred in the parallel investigation by House Oversight Committee Chairman Rep. Darrell Issa of California.