By Mike Lillis - 05/06/14 10:09 AM EDT
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) suggested Tuesday that Democrats would participate in an "equally divided" select committee to investigate the deadly 2012 attacks on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya.
House Republicans are poised to vote later this week for the panel's creation, and questions have swirled about whether the Democrats will participate in the process or boycott it, like they did a similar committee investigating the government's 2005 response to Hurricane Katrina.
Pelosi on Tuesday amplified the Democrats' criticisms that the select committee is unnecessary, but suggested the Democrats would participate if the process is open and evenly bipartisan.
“There has been a review at the State Department by the Accountability Review Board. There were two bipartisan reviews in the United States Senate, and four partisan reviews in the House of Representatives," Pelosi said in a statement.
“If this review is to be fair, it must be truly bipartisan. The panel should be equally divided between Democrats and Republicans as is done on the House Ethics Committee. It should require that witnesses are called and interviewed, subpoenas are issued, and information is shared on a bipartisan basis."
"Only then," she added, "could it be fair.”
The office of House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) was quick to respond, blasting an email reminding that Pelosi, as House Speaker in 2007, had created a select committee on global warming that consisted of nine Democrats and six Republicans.
"Let the record show, in 2007, Ldr Pelosi thought a 9-6 ratio was 'fair,' " reads the subject line of Boehner's email.
The push to create a select committee on Benghazi took off on Friday, when Boehner, who'd resisted such a move for many months, reversed course. He said the reluctance of the White House to cooperate with congressional investigations — combined with a newly released administration email the Republicans' consider a "smoking gun" revealing White House deception — left him no choice.
"It’s clear that questions remain, and the administration still does not respect the authority of Congress to provide proper oversight," Boehner said.
Democrats have hammered the Republicans's focus on Benghazi, saying it's both an overtly political ploy to embarrass the Obama administration and a waste of time and resources given the number of separate investigations into the Sept. 11, 2012 attack, which killed four Americans, including the U.S. ambassador to Libya.
"[They're] gonna spend taxpayer money for doing something that they've already spent taxpayer money to do," Rep. Steny Hoyer (Md.), the Democratic whip, said Monday. "Our view is that we've done that [and] we don't believe the administration covered it up. And we believe that this is political only."
Hoyer said he would vote against the creation of the select committee and would urge other Democrats to do the same.
On Monday, Boehner tapped Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) to head the select committee, though GOP leaders have yet to outline the details of how the process will work.
A vote on the select committee is expected before the end of the week.