The U.S. House of Representatives voted to create a select committee to investigate the 2012 attacks that killed four Americans in Benghazi, Libya, and the White House response that Republicans call a coverup.
The vote yesterday was 232-186, with seven Democrats joining all Republicans in voting to set up the panel.
The committee will be led by South Carolina Republican Trey Gowdy, a former prosecutor known for rhetorical flourishes. A YouTube video of him at a press conference, titled “Trey Gowdy Demands Answers on Benghazi,” has almost 2.3 million views.
The other six Republicans, named by House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio today, are 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.
Mindful of the sensitive nature of the investigation and claims that previous inquiries turned into political spectacles, Boehner has told fellow Republicans not to grandstand on the issue.
Democrats are considering whether to boycott the panel. Some, including Representative Steve Israel of New York, the head of the House Democratic campaign arm, deride the committee as a stunt and say they want no part of it. Others, including Representative Henry Waxman of California, say Democrats need to be part of the proceedings.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California told reporters today that Democrats will decide whether to participate after she talks with Boehner about Democrats’ concerns over committee procedures.
Boehner’s office sent an offer to Pelosi, according to his spokesman, Michael Steel. “We have responded to their concerns; the ball is now in their court,” Steel said.
Pelosi rejected the offer hours later, describing it in a letter as “fundamentally unfair.” Pelosi said Democrats want a “real voice” on the panel in how subpoenas would be issued, how witnesses would be questioned, and on obtaining and releasing documents, including transcripts of depositions.
Some Democrats say the committee is a political exercise aimed in part at weakening Hillary Clinton, the secretary of state at the time of the attacks and a potential Democratic presidential candidate in 2016.
Pelosi said, though, that she thought the panel was aimed at this year’s election and was intended to divert attention from a lack of Republican action on issues such as immigration.
Congress started investigating the Benghazi attacks less than a month after they occurred on Sept. 11, 2012, calling attention to the Obama administration’s erroneous initial claim that the violence stemmed from “spontaneously inspired” demonstrations over an anti-Islamic video.
Officials later said attackers with links to terrorist groups stormed a diplomatic compound and set fire to it. That attack, and another one hours later at a CIA annex, killed Ambassador Chris Stevens and three others.
The measure is H. Res. 567.
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