House OKs spe­cial panel for Beng­hazi probe

Democrats weigh role on com­mit­tee

The Washington Times Weekly - - Politics - BY DAVID SHERFINSKI AND SETH MCLAUGH­LIN

Say­ing they were tired of ad­min­is­tra­tion stonewalling, House Repub­li­cans voted Thurs­day to cre­ate a select com­mit­tee to in­ves­ti­gate the 2012 ter­ror­ist at­tack in Beng­hazi — but drew only scant sup­port from Democrats who ral­lied around Pres­i­dent Obama and called the probe a par­ti­san in­qui­si­tion.

The 232-186 vote gar­nered seven Democrats in fa­vor of the com­mit­tee and no Repub­li­cans op­posed, bol­ster­ing Demo­cratic lead­ers’ ar­gu­ment that the panel lacks bi­par­ti­san cre­den­tials. Those lead­ers now must de­cide whether to par­tic­i­pate in or boy­cott the com­mit­tee.

Repub­li­can lead­ers said White House in­tran­si­gence has forced the need for the com­mit­tee, but House Speaker John A. Boehner promised that the probe will be fair and will fol­low the facts, not a par­ti­san agenda.

“This doesn’t need to be, shouldn’t be, and will not be a par­ti­san process,” Mr. Boehner, Ohio Repub­li­can, said on the House floor. “Four Amer­i­cans died at the hands of ter­ror­ists in a well-co­or­di­nated as­sault. And we will not take any short­cuts to the truth, ac­count­abil­ity or jus­tice. And we will not al­low any sideshows that dis­tract us from those goals.”

Demo­cratic lead­ers dis­missed the com­mit­tee vote as a par­ti­san sham, say­ing there has been enough in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the cir­cum­stances sur­round­ing the at­tack, which left the U.S. am­bas­sador to Libya and three other Amer­i­cans dead.

“Repub­li­cans’ un­end­ing ea­ger­ness to ex­ploit these deaths is dis­re­spect­ful to their fam­i­lies and un­wor­thy of the Amer­i­can peo­ple,” Mi­nor­ity Leader Nancy Pelosi, Cal­i­for­nia Demo­crat, said in a state­ment af­ter the vote. “Our na­tion de­serves bet­ter than yet an­other deeply par­ti­san and po­lit­i­cal re­view.”

The com­mit­tee will put the is­sue back into the head­lines as law­mak­ers gear up for midterm elec­tions.

Democrats said elec­tion pol­i­tics was part of the Repub­li­cans’ mo­ti­va­tion and ac­cused them of us­ing the is­sue to raise cam­paign funds.

The com­mit­tee will be led by Rep. Trey Gowdy, South Carolina Repub­li­can, and will have seven Repub­li­cans and five Democrats — that is, if Democrats agree to par­tic­i­pate. Democrats wanted even mem­ber­ship and wanted all sub­poe­nas to re­quire bi­par­ti­san sup­port.

For Mr. Boehner, en­dors­ing the select com­mit­tee amounted to a re­ver­sal. For months, he said the House Over­sight and Govern­ment Re­form, Armed Ser­vices, and For­eign Af­fairs com­mit­tees were best po­si­tioned to in­ves­ti­gate.

But af­ter a con­flict be­tween two of those pan­els last week, and the rev­e­la­tion that the White House hadn’t turned over a key memo sug­gest­ing a deeper role by close pres­i­den­tial aides in shap­ing the pub­lic re­la­tions re­sponse to the at­tack, Mr. Boehner said a spe­cial com­mit­tee was war­ranted.

He has charged the com­mit­tee with ex­plor­ing se­cu­rity lapses lead­ing up to the at­tack, the U.S. re­sponse to the at­tack, the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion’s ini­tial effort to por­tray the at­tack as a mob up­ris­ing spawned by an anti-Is­lam video, and the ef­forts to go af­ter the at­tack­ers. None of the per­pe­tra­tors has been brought to jus­tice.

Just seven Democrats voted for the in­quiry. That was one more than voted Wed­nes­day to find for­mer In­ter­nal Rev­enue Ser­vice em­ployee Lois G. Lerner in con­tempt of Congress, the re­sult of an­other Repub­li­can in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion.

But 26 Democrats voted Wed­nes­day to ask the Jus­tice Depart­ment to name a spe­cial pros­e­cu­tor to look into the IRS more broadly.

Demo­cratic lead­ers twisted arms to try to keep de­fec­tions low on the Beng­hazi vote, and the seven who voted for the probe were chiefly from swing dis­tricts.

The num­ber of mem­bers who broke rank is small enough that Democrats could jus­tify boy­cotting the com­mit­tee. But if Democrats don’t par­tic­i­pate, it could leave high-pro­file Beng­hazi fig­ures such as Su­san E. Rice and Hil­lary Rod­ham Clin­ton — the would-be front-run­ner for the party’s 2016 pres­i­den­tial nom­i­na­tion — twist­ing in the wind if the com­mit­tee sub­poe­nas them to tes­tify.

Their jeop­ardy could in­crease if Repub­li­cans win con­trol of the Se­nate in November elec­tions. Sev­eral Repub­li­cans have de­manded that up­per cham­ber in­sti­tute its own in­quiry or join the House.

But Se­nate Ma­jor­ity Leader Harry Reid, Ne­vada Demo­crat, said he is com­fort­able with the 25,000 pages of doc­u­ments that the State Depart­ment has turned over, the var­i­ous re­ports com­pleted, and a State Depart­ment in­ter­nal re­view that found sev­eral lower-level em­ploy­ees re­spon­si­ble for bad de­ci­sion-mak­ing.

House Democrats sched­uled a cau­cus meet­ing for Fri­day morn­ing to de­ter­mine their next steps.

Rep. Rosa L. DeLauro, Con­necti­cut Demo­crat, cir­cu­lated a let­ter to col­leagues late Thurs­day float­ing the idea that Democrats ap­point just one mem­ber to the com­mit­tee, a move that would sig­nify a suf­fi­cient protest to Repub­li­cans’ han­dling of the mat­ter but also would give the party a voice in the process.

Con­ser­va­tives, who some­times have been at odds with Mr. Boehner, cheered the move and said the speaker likely got fed up with White House stonewalling of sep­a­rate com­mit­tee in­ves­ti­ga­tions.

“A lot of us had been ask­ing for this for a long time,” said Rep. Raul R. Labrador, Idaho Repub­li­can. “I am re­ally ex­cited that Trey Gowdy is chair­ing that com­mit­tee. He is just some­body who is a dogged seeker of the truth, and that is what we are look­ing for here. I think it is the right thing and I re­ally praise the speaker for it, for mak­ing the right de­ci­sion on that.”

Rep. Steve King, Iowa Repub­li­can, said that if Democrats op­pose the makeup of the House com­mit­tee, they could set up a sim­i­lar panel in the Se­nate.

“They could set up their select com­mit­tee in the Se­nate and run it just the way we are go­ing to run one in the House,” Mr. King said.

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

The com­mit­tee will be led by Rep. Trey Gowdy, South Carolina Repub­li­can, and will have seven Repub­li­cans and five Democrats — that is, if Democrats agree to par­tic­i­pate. Democrats wanted even mem­ber­ship and wanted all sub­poe­nas to re­quire bi­par­ti­san sup­port.

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