WASHINGTON — House Democrats insist that a special select committee on the deadly 2012 attack in Benghazi, Libya, be evenly split between Republicans and Democrats, raising doubts about their participation in the election-year investigation of the Obama administration.
Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Rep. Steny Hoyer, the No. 2 House Democrat, sent a letter to Speaker John Boehner late Tuesday urging him to reconsider plans to put seven Republicans and five Democrats on the panel. The House is expected to vote Thursday on the resolution establishing the committee, over Democratic objections.
"Another partisan review that serves only to politicize these attacks is disrespectful and unworthy of the American people," Pelosi and Hoyer wrote.
Four Americans, including Ambassador Chris Stevens, were killed when militants attacked the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi on Sept. 11, 2012.
Republicans accuse the Obama administration of downplaying the terrorist attack in an election year, and insist the White House hid details of the attack for political motives. Democrats point to the eight investigations, some independent and some bipartisan, that have largely concluded that the State Department did not provide adequate security.
Pelosi and Hoyer complained that the House GOP investigations to date "have been characterized by extreme and counter-productive partisanship," and they don't want that repeated.
However, Democrats must decide whether they will participate in the committee or boycott an investigation that could drag on for months. Pelosi and Hoyer said "a fundamentally different approach" is needed for a select committee, including equal representation.
Rep. Trey Gowdy, who will lead the committee, said Wednesday that Republicans are entitled to more seats on the panel.
"Elections have consequences," Gowdy said on MSNBC, pointing out that more Republicans were elected to House seats.
"Just because a committee is evenly distributed doesn't necessarily enhance its credibility," said Gowdy, a second-term congressman from South Carolina and former prosecutor. "It can be fair without being even."