Former Rep. Ron Barber, D-Ariz., was in D.C. for business Thursday, so he thought he would return to Capitol Hill to see the committee he helped create. He was not pleased.
Barber was one of seven Democrats who broke ranks in 2014 to vote to establish the House Select Committee on Benghazi . And as he sat in the hearing room, watching lawmakers question former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, he was “completely disappointed.” “At the time it seemed like a really good idea to me that we would have another look, and hopefully a bipartisan look,” Barber told HOH in the Speaker’s Lobby Thursday evening. “Unfortunately, I’m completely disappointed, from what I’ve seen before and what I’ve been understanding about it.
“But to see it in person,” he continued, “is even more illuminating because what happened today in that room is basically nothing more that a partisan witch hunt as far as I’m concerned.”
But Barber said he did not regret his vote to create the committee.
“I think you stand by your votes,” Barber said. “At the time, obviously, I was bucking the majority of the party. But to me it’s always important to try to have more transparency in government. And this was an opportunity, hopefully, I thought, to put this whole issue to rest.”
“But it’s not done that, because as far as I can tell, at least from today’s hearing, there’s not been one new fact or piece of evidence that’s come out that has said anything different than the seven reports that have already been produced,” he said. “So [I’m] very disappointed, not only in the work of the committee, but in the partisanship.”
As the committee took a break from the hearing to cast votes, Barber returned to the House floor for the first time since losing his re-election bid by a mere 167 votes to GOP Rep. Martha McSally in 2014.
He said he received a warm welcome from his colleagues. A few of them shook his hand and slapped his back as he spoke to HOH, but he said he was glad he was no longer in Congress.
“I’ve heard from members that it’s worse than when I was here, which was hard,” Barber said. “My whole goal when I came here, and I tried to do it throughout my time, was to reach across the aisle and find ways to work together. And I think that the increase in numbers of what used to be the Tea Party Caucus, now the Freedom Caucus, I think it’s been harder to get any bipartisan activity.”
But the increased partisanship was not a factor that led to his decision not to challenge McSally in 2016. Instead, he said he wanted to be around to watch his five grandchildren grow up.
“My youngest is two-and-a-half and she wasn’t even born when I ran for Congress,” Barber said. “So I’ve missed a lot of her life and don’t intend to miss any more.”
Barber has also been busy working as an advisory board member of the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare, and as a member of the Department of Homeland Security’s Advisory Council.
On top of all that, Barber also helped found, and is very active in, the January 8th Memorial Foundation. The group is working to build a memorial to those killed in the 2011 shooting in Tucson, Ariz., at then-Rep. Gabrielle Gifford’s community meeting.
That fateful day is what led Barber to become a lawmaker. He served as Gifford’s district director and was injured in the incident. He later won the seat when she stepped down.
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