WASHINGTON—A day after the House voted to form a special panel to investigate the 2012 terrorist attack in Benghazi, Libya, House Speaker John Boehner on Friday unveiled the Republican members who will serve on the committee.
After some 200 GOP members requested a spot, Boehner selected Reps. Susan Brooks (R-Ind.), Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), Mike Pompeo (R-Kan.), Martha Roby (R-Ala.), Peter Roskam (R-Ill.), and Lynn Westmoreland (R-Ga.) to sit on the Select Committee on Benghazi. Boehner announced earlier this week that Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., a former federal prosecutor, will chair the panel.
Seven Democrats joined Republicans Thursday night as the House voted 232-186 to create the select committee. Charles Woods, father of former Nave SEAL Tyrone Woods, one of four killed in the attacks, told me Friday he was very pleased with the approval. “The select committee is an answer to prayer,” he said. “I think we’re finally going to get some answers.”
Boehner’s selections for the committee include a variety of committee assignments, although not one from the Armed Services Committee. Gowdy and Jordan serve on the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform; Brooks is on the Homeland Security and Ethics committees; Pompeo is on the Intelligence Committee; Roby is on the Appropriations Committee; Roskam is on Ways and Means; and Westmoreland is on the Intelligence Committee and is the chairman of the Financial Services subcommittee on oversight.
The 12-person committee is slated to have five Democrats, but as of Friday afternoon, Democrats were still trying to decide if they wanted to participate. Before Thursday’s vote, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said a fair investigation would have an equal number of Republicans and Democrats, so she may use that as a reason not to participate. Republicans noted that Pelosi, when she was Speaker, created a select committee with nine Democrats and six Republicans to explore global warming.
Pelosi on Friday sent a letter to Boehner saying a “fair, open, and balanced” investigation is not possible under the current rules of the panel: “The proposal does not prevent the unacceptable and repeated abuses committed by Chairman [Darrell] Issa in any meaningful way, and we find it fundamentally unfair.”
Issa chairs the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform and has come under heavy criticism from Democrats for the way he has handled the Benghazi investigation. Pelosi told Boehner Democrats who serve on the committee should have a say in issuing subpoenas, questioning witnesses, and protocols for obtaining information.
Congress has used select committees in the past to conduct major investigations, including Iran-Contra in 1987 and Watergate in 1973.
Many Republicans have long-sought a select committee to find out what happened before, during, and after the 2012 terrorist attack that killed U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three others, saying the administration was stonewalling. Last week, newly released documents added fuel to the fire: Administration emails revealed the White House played an integral role in crafting talking points that blamed the attack on an obscure YouTube video insulting Islam.
“This administration has obscured facts around their response to the tragedy, withheld documents from Congress and the president himself called this tragic loss of life a ‘phony scandal,’” Issa said. Issa’s committee received new documents last month, only one day before a federal court ordered the administration to release them to Judicial Watch, a watchdog group that filed a Freedom of Information Act request in 2012. Judicial Watch says the administration is still withholding documents.
Democrats have chastised Republicans for dragging the Benghazi investigation into an election year and raising money from the tragedy. Republicans point to the administration for stonewalling the investigation. Rep. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., an Iraq War veteran, blasted Democrats during a floor speech Thursday over what he called “fake outrage.”
“Where was the outrage as Democrats fundraised endlessly off the Iraq War?” Cotton asked.