Speaker John Boehner has tapped 6 additional Republicans to sit on the Select Committee on Benghazi — all lawyers, including a former federal prosecutor.
Meanwhile, Republicans are forging ahead despite Nancy Pelosi’s rejection of committee rules and the Democrat’s failure to name any members to sit on the panel.
Boehner’s choices were, if not inspired, certainly acceptable to the broader party. He appeared to choose members who could add to the committee’s deliberations rather than choose members based on loyalty to him.
The Speaker announced his picks to serve under Chairman Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) on the special committee on Friday, selecting a mix of junior and senior members and adding an additional former federal prosecutor in freshman Rep. Susan Brooks (R-Ind.).
In addition to Brooks and Gowdy, Boehner’s appointees are Reps. Peter Roskam (Ill.), Jim Jordan (Ohio), Lynn Westmoreland (Ga.), Mike Pompeo (Kan.) and Martha Roby (Ala.).
Roskam is the highest-ranking member and serves now as the GOP’s chief deputy whip, while Jordan and Westmoreland are staunch conservatives who have been deeply involved in the Benghazi investigations to date. Pompeo is the only military veteran, while Roby led a probe into the Benghazi attack as a subcommittee chairwoman on the House Armed Services Committee.
They will join Gowdy, who served as a prosecutor for 16 years before his election to Congress in 2010.
“This investigation is about getting answers for the families of the victims and for the American people,” Boehner said in a statement. “These members have each demonstrated a commitment to this goal, and I have confidence that they will lead a serious, fact-based inquiry. As I have expressed to each of them, I expect this committee to carry out an investigation worthy of the American lives lost in Benghazi.”
The Speaker also called on Democrats to make their appointments to the panel, although it was unclear on Friday whether they would participate. Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) emerged from a meeting with her caucus without a decision, and the Democratic leadership was meeting Friday afternoon to consider a response from Boehner’s office to a letter outlining their concerns about the ratio.
Democrats had wanted an even split of Republicans and Democrats on the panel. But after Boehner rejected that demand, they are instead pushing for a firm commitment that Democrats will have a say in the issuing of subpoenas and calling witnesses.
“I also urge my Democratic colleagues to treat this tragedy with the proper respect and appoint members so that we can finally, on a bipartisan basis, get answers, provide accountability, and help deliver justice,” Boehner said. “It is critical that this committee do its work in a focused, timely manner, so that the House can continue to make the economy and job creation its priorities.”
Rank-and-file Republicans lobbied aggressively in private to be named to the high-profile panel, and Boehner gave assignments to three members of the large GOP class of 2010. Westmoreland is a deputy chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, while Jordan has butted heads with the Speaker as a former chairman of the conservative Republican Study Committee.
There has been controversy over the idea of the GOP fundraising off the committee. Boehner’s choice of Rep. Westmoreland would appear to give the green light to those efforts.
Pelosi’s rejection of the rules proposed by Boehner may be a gambit to wring concessions from Republicans to give the Democrats more of a say in the committee’s deliberations. She is testing to see how far the Republicans are willing to go it alone. Right now, the odds are 50-50 that the Democrats boycott the proceedings.
What do the Democrats want?
Democrats say they are concerned it will not allow their party to participate fairly in the investigation, which will involve subpoenas and viewing of classified materials related to the Sept. 11, 2012, attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi.
According to a Democratic leadership aide, Pelosi rejects a rule that will not prevent chairman Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., from issuing unilateral subpoenas without consulting with Democrats. The rules would also allow Republicans to prevent Democrats from interviewing witnesses.
Democrats say they do not want a repeat of the investigation conducted by the House Oversight panel, headed by Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., which they believed was highly politicized: “Regrettably, the proposal does not prevent the unacceptable and repeated abuses committed by Chairman Issa in any meaningful way, and we find it fundamentally unfair.”
The committee is politicized because Benghazi has become a huge political issue. Pelosi knows full well how this kind of thing works considering that the Democrats played the same games with Republicans when they had control of the House.
Republicans are laying the groundwork for public hearings that may begin in a couple of weeks. Will Democrats be able to resist the siren call of nationally televised hearings? Or will they try to blow up the committee by refusing to participate?
Republicans are ready to proceed either way.