The House select committee on the 2012 Benghazi attack will consist of seven Republicans and five Democrats and will have subpoena power to conduct a "full and complete investigation," House Speaker John Boehner said Tuesday.
"This committee's structure, scope, and capabilities represent a responsible approach, reflecting the seriousness of what happened in Benghazi as well as the Obama administration's unacceptable lack of cooperation in the time since," Boehner said.
The Ohio Republican announced that he had posted the resolution
for the panel to the House Rules Committee. The GOP-controlled House is expected to easily approve the resolution when it votes on Thursday.
"Our system of government is built on an assumption of transparency," Boehner said. "It is unfortunate that it has to come to this, but when four Americans are killed by terrorists in a well coordinated assault, the American people will not tolerate the evasion we have seen from the White House."
He said the select committee will be provided with "special investigatory tools not available to every standing committee of the House."
The panel, to be chaired by South Carolina GOP Rep. Trey Gowdy, "will be provided as much time as needed to bring forth answers, accountability, and justice," the speaker said, given "the administration's history of slow-walking information."
The resolution says the committee will be empowered to take depositions "under oath" — and members will be allowed to question witnesses for longer than the standard five minutes allowed by regular panels.
According to the House Rules Committee
website, the scope of the panel includes "security decisions and military posture prior to the attack, the terrorist attack that occurred in Benghazi on September 11, 2012, the executive branch's response to the attack, the executive branch's efforts to identify and bring to justice the perpetrators of the attack... the executive branch's response to congressional inquiries and subpoenas, recommendations for improving executive branch cooperation and compliance with congressional oversight and lessons learned from the attacks."
House Democrats have attacked the committee as partisan. Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said earlier Tuesday that Republicans must conduct interviews and share information as conditions for her party's participation.
She also called for an equal number of Democrats and Republicans on the panel, a demand Boehner rejected.
"If this review is to be fair, it must be truly bipartisan," the California congresswoman said, adding later that rank-and-file Democrats are "suspicious of whatever the Republicans are trying to do."
Rep. Chris Van Hollen, a Maryland Democrat, said a boycott is possible.
"Should Democrats participate?" he asked on MSNBC
"What Leader Pelosi has said is, if this is a fair process – meaning if you're genuinely interested in trying to get more facts rather than engage in a political witch hunt – then you should have even participation.
"So, if Republicans aren't willing to do that, it just is more evidence that they're interested in politics rather than substance."
The House's No. 3 Democrat, Rep. James Clyburn of South Carolina, said that if the panel were not set up like the House Ethics Committee, which has an even number of Democrats and Republicans, "I would be dead set against it," Roll Call
Clyburn said he wasn't concerned about the optics of not having Democrats play a role on the special panel, saying the party "should not even participate in it" if the panel ultimately calls for anything less than an even split.
"Let them drive it, they're driving it anyway," Clyburn said. "I'm not bringing a noose to my own hanging."
Boehner noted, however, that when the GOP was the minority in the House, Pelosi, as speaker, "established a select committee with a more partisan nine-to-six ratio."
The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.
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