House Democrats are leaning toward boycotting the GOP’s select committee to investigate the Benghazi attacks of 2012, out of concerns that it is a partisan ploy to damage the Obama administration and Hillary Clinton’s 2016 prospects.
The signs are everywhere.
On Tuesday, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said that in order to be “fair” the panel must give Democrats equal membership and equal say on the issuance of subpoenas and protocols for obtaining information. Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) rejected her request and revealed that it would consist of 7 Republicans and 5 Democrats.
Pelosi and House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD) followed up with a letter to Boehner complaining that he turned down their requests and bashing Republicans for the tenor of their prior investigations into the matter.
“If you truly want this new select committee to be bipartisan and fair – and to be taken seriously by the American people – we call on you to reconsider this approach before bringing this measure to the House floor for a vote,” they wrote. “Another partisan review that serves only to politicize these attacks is disrespectful and unworthy of the American people.”
On Wednesday, Democratic National Committee chair and Florida Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz called the panel a “political ploy” and said her House leadership should “seriously consider” refusing to participate.
At a conference meeting that morning, Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chair Steve Israel (D-NY) told members that Democrats should “have nothing to do with” Republicans who are “exploiting” the tragedy, according to the Washington Post.
Also on Wednesday, Clinton, who was secretary of state during the attacks which left four Americans dead, told ABC News she doesn’t see “any reason” to continue probing given the many investigations Congress has already done.
On Thursday, No. 3 Democratic Rep. James Clyburn (SC) endorsed a full boycott.
“We should not have a select committee and we should not be disrupting the work that has been done,” he said, arguing that GOP leaders are forming the committee because “all of a sudden the tea party has flexed its muscle.”
The Republican-led House is expected to vote late Thursday afternoon on forming the committee. A Democratic leadership aide said the party won’t announce its intentions before the vote. But Democratic leaders’ own public statements and signals leave little room for them to justify participating in the committee — at least unless Boehner reverses course and gives them an equal say in the panel. Privately they say their concerns that Republicans see it as a political bonanza to energize the conservative base were validated when the National Republican Congressional Committee decided to fundraise off it.
Second-term Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC), a former prosecutor, has been tapped to lead the panel. He assured CNN on Wednesday that it would be a serious investigation.
“This is not going to be a kangaroo court,” he said.
This article has been updated.