Democrats Still Undecided on Benghazi Committee Participation

(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
Posted May 20, 2014 at 12:47pm

House Democrats are still weighing  whether they will appoint members to the GOP-led special committee to investigate the September 2012 attacks on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya — but don’t call it a caucus-wide “division,” two senior lawmakers implored.  

“[It’s] the wrong word,” Caucus Vice Chairman Joseph Crowley of New York said at a Tuesday morning news conference. “The caucus is not divided. … What the caucus is doing is helping our leadership come up with a plan on how to approach what is a very serious issue.”  

“Democrats’ concern has always been whether this will be a legitimate process, to make a sincere effort to learn something new, or whether it’s really … a campaign cash-raising tool,” added Caucus Chairman Xavier Becerra of California. Before lawmakers left Washington, D.C., for recess of last week, Democrats were grappling with whether to participate fully in the Benghazi committee that they continue to see as politically motivated, or boycott the panel entirely in an indictment of Republican leadership’s choice not to provide for an even split of members from both parties.  

Different ideas were floated, including one that would install just one Democrat on the committee in order to keep tabs on the panel’s progress and report back to colleagues on what was going on behind closed doors.  

There is still no word on when the committee will meet to officially organize and begin its work, but Speaker John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, has named his party’s slate of 12 members , and the appointed chairman, Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., has hired Capitol Hill veteran Phil Kiko as staff director.  

Meanwhile, Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., is reportedly still waiting for answers from Boehner as to whether he can offer assurances that the committee will be taken seriously and Democrats will have a voice in decisions about issuing subpoenas and calling up witnesses to testify.  

Boehner’s staff was dispatched to confer with Pelosi’s, but a member-level meeting has not yet taken place, and it’s not clear whether it ever will.