House Benghazi panel will have open-ended duration, budget
By Russell Berman - 05/06/14 08:36 PM EDT
The House select committee investigating the Benghazi terrorist attack will have 12 members but no set budget or deadline for reporting its findings to lawmakers, according to legislation released by Speaker John Boehner’s office on Tuesday evening.
The proposal calls for seven Republicans and five Democrats, an uneven ratio that could cause Democrats to boycott a panel they say is unnecessary and aimed at politicizing the tragedy that killed four Americans at the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, on Sept. 11, 2012.
“This committee’s structure, scope, and capabilities represent a responsible approach, reflecting the seriousness of what happened in Benghazi as well as the Obama administration’s unacceptable lack of cooperation in the time since,” Boehner (R-Ohio) said in a statement Tuesday.
Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) is expected to announce on Wednesday whether Democrats will participate in the panel. The House is expected to vote to form the committee on Thursday, and Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer (Md.) has said he will urge his party to oppose it.
Boehner on Monday named second-term conservative Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.), a former federal prosecutor, to lead the committee. Lawmakers have been lobbying the Speaker’s office to get on the high-profile panel, and the other Republican members will likely be named after the House vote.
The legislation says the select committee must deliver a final report to the House, but its duration is open-ended. And the proposal does not set a specific budget for the panel.
The committee may issue subpoenas like other House panels and can choose to hold hearings in private when considering classified matters.
Republicans have accused the Obama administration of stonewalling the investigations that four separate House committees have conducted on the Benghazi attacks. Boehner bowed to conservative demands that he appoint a select committee last week after the White House released an email that the GOP said supported their claims that officials misled the public in the initial days after the attack.
“Our system of government is built on an assumption of transparency,” Boehner said. “It is unfortunate that it has to come to this, but when four Americans are killed by terrorists in a well-coordinated assault, the American people will not tolerate the evasion we have seen from the White House. In response to the administration’s pattern of obstructing oversight efforts, this Select Committee will be provided special investigatory tools not available to every standing committee of the House.
“And given the administration’s history of slow-walking information, Chairman Gowdy and this panel will be provided as much time as needed to bring forth answers, accountability, and justice,” Boehner added. “I expect the members of this committee – Republican and Democrat – to exercise these authorities with a single-minded focus of getting the unvarnished truth about what took place leading up to, during, and following the terrorist attack on our consulate in Libya. The American people will accept no less.”