Tags: US | Benghazi | Attack

House Democrats Weigh Role in New Benghazi Probe

Image: House Democrats Weigh Role in New Benghazi Probe House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Rep. Xavier Becerra

Friday, 09 May 2014 12:32 PM

By Newsmax Wires

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House Speaker John Boehner and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi are said to be negotiating the terms of the newly created Benghazi panel, with Democrats demanding more control over how the committee will function.

House Democrats have issued several demands if they are to participate in the select committee. Rebuffed on their request for an equal split in membership, Democrats are seeking guarantees they'll have equal access to documents, say on subpoenas and the right to question witnesses

Pelosi, who is charged with appointing the five Democrats who would sit on the panel versus the seven allotted to the GOP, is debating whether or not to boycott the select committee approved by the House last night

Pelosi also wants Democrats in on any travel as part of the panel's investigations, the ability to sign off on subpoenas, but that option is unlikely. According to Politico, there are some indications that the minority party would be flexible on some things, like giving advance warning of pending subpoenas.

Boehner spokesman Michael Steel said the Democrats are just looking for a way to gain concessions when the Benghazi panel is expected to follow established procedures and be a bipartisan effort. And he said they've responded to Pelosi's request.

“We have responded to the Democrats’ concerns,” he said. “The ball is in their court.”

Divided Democrat party leaders will meet with rank-and-file members later today to decide the next step.

Boehner on Friday named the Republicans who will sit on the committee chaired by U.S. Rep. Trey Gowdy of South Carolina. His nominees are Reps. Susan Brooks of Indiana, Jim Jordan of Ohio, Mike Pompeo of Kansas, Martha Roby of Alabama, Peter Roskam of Illinois and Lynn Westmoreland of Georgia.

"This investigation is about getting answers for the families of the victims and for the American people. These members have each demonstrated a commitment to this goal, and I have confidence that they will lead a serious, fact-based inquiry. As I have expressed to each of them, I expect this committee to carry out an investigation worthy of the American lives lost in Benghazi. I also urge my Democratic colleagues to treat this tragedy with the proper respect and appoint members so that we can finally, on a bipartisan basis, get answers, provide accountability, and help deliver justice," Boehner said in a statement.

The House vote Thursday to create the special committee was 232-186. Seven Democrats, many of whom face tough re-elections in November, broke ranks and joined the GOP majority.

The panel's investigation will be the eighth on Benghazi and means high-profile hearings in the months leading up to the elections, with Republicans grilling current and former Obama administration officials. Certain to be called to testify is former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, the Democrats' potential 2016 presidential candidate.

Democrats are concerned that their participation would grant legitimacy to what they believe will be a partisan forum. But they also worry that if they avoid it they won't have the chance to counter GOP claims and defend potential witnesses.

"This doesn't need to be, shouldn't be and will not be a partisan process," House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said in a speech on the House floor promising pursuit of the truth.

Democrats have their doubts

Urgent: Do You Think There is a Cover-up on Benghazi? Vote Now in Urgent Poll

"It's hard to trust what Speaker Boehner is doing with this new select committee," Rep. Xavier Becerra, D-Calif., chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, said in a statement after the vote. He pointed to Boehner's comments a month ago that a special panel was unnecessary.

After the vote, Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., was noncommittal about whether Democrats would participate on the special committee, but assailed the new probe. "Our nation deserves better than yet another deeply partisan and political review," she said.

Boehner's legislation creates the special committee through the end of the year. It will have to be reapproved when a new Congress begins in January or go out of existence. The select committee has no explicit financial constraints. The speaker was expected to announce the Republican members on Friday..

In the 20 months since the attack, multiple independent, bipartisan and GOP-led probes already have faulted the State Department for inadequate security at the outpost, leading to four demotions. No attacker has yet been brought to justice.

Republicans say they're unsatisfied with explanations so far, and they have leveled a range of accusations against President Barack Obama, Clinton and other senior administration officials. Chief among them is that the administration misled the American people about the nature of the attack during a presidential election campaign and stonewalled congressional investigators.

Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., criticized the "song and dance" she said came from Clinton when House members wanted to question her about Benghazi a few months after the attack. Clinton's testimony before the House Foreign Affairs Committee was delayed when she missed a month of work toward the end of her tenure after suffering a virus, then a fall and a concussion, and then brief hospitalization for a blood clot near her brain.

Benghazi has produced 13 public hearings, the release of 25,000 pages of documents and 50 separate briefings. The select committee won't be the only inquiry, as other GOP-led congressional panels continue their investigations, including a House Oversight probe which just last week took the extraordinary step of subpoenaing a Cabinet member, Secretary of State John Kerry. Kerry hasn't said when he might testify.

Democrats deride the effort as a conservative campaign designed to energize Republican voters in typically low-turnout midterm elections.

Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-Va., accused Republicans of perpetuating "myths and conspiracies" and remaining obsessed with "recycling tired and worn talking points in a cynical attempt to fire up the GOP base in the run-up to an election year."

Earlier this week, the National Republican Congressional Committee sent an email vowing that "no one will get away" from the committee's investigation and asking people for donations.

Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., the former prosecutor tapped by Boehner to head the panel, has signaled he would re-examine the entirety of the Benghazi attack, including questions Democrats and some senior Republicans consider settled.

Some Democrats dismiss the notion that the public will pay attention.

"I think the American people are not interested in Benghazi," said Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y. "It appeals to the narrow base of the Republican Party."

Urgent: Do You Think There is a Cover-up on Benghazi? Vote Now in Urgent Poll

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