As House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) named six Republicans to sit on a new select committee to investigate the 2012 terrorist attack in Benghazi, Democrats continued to wrestle Friday with the question of whether to participate at all.
The idea of boycotting what Democrats view as a political witch-hunt by Republicans is dividing the party even at the most senior levels. No final decision was made by the time lawmakers left the Capitol on Friday, meaning the issue could remain unresolved through the upcoming week-long recess.
For now, Democrats say the ball is in Boehner's court. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco) wrote to him Friday afternoon calling the latest outline of how the committee's work would be conducted "fundamentally unfair," and requested another face-to-face meeting. According to a Democratic aide, the panel's Republican members would still be empowered to issue subpoenas without the input of Democrats and exclude Democratic staff from interviews with witnesses.
"The American people deserve and expect us to work together," Pelosi wrote. "For the sake of the families and the brave Americans who died in this tragedy, this process must not be politicized."
Speaking earlier with reporters, Pelosi expressed her view that the select committee, formed after a party-line vote in the House on Thursday, was nothing but a "political stunt" designed to energize conservative voters in a midterm election year.
But she acknowledged that there was a range of opinion within the Democratic ranks about how to participate, if at all.
"Let's not be accomplices to this diversionary tactic," she said. "It's all subterfuge."
In a closed-door meeting Friday, the second in three days on the subject, Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), the Democratic whip, made a forceful pitch to participate fully, according to one attendee. Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D-Calif.) has also been making that case.
But the third-ranking Democrat, James Clyburn of South Carolina, said he continues to be reluctant about participating.
"I don't know that you do yourself a whole lot of good volunteering to participate in a kangaroo court," he told reporters. "If you know that it's a kangaroo court, why would you validate it or give any credibility to it?"
Without assurances of a fair process, Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) suggested in a letter to her colleagues that Democrats appoint just one member, rather than five, to act as a watchdog of the process.
"I thought it would be a good thing to put in the mix something else for consideration," she said.
But others were unconvinced, saying it was critical to maximize the party's voice in a process that could include public questioning of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and other administration officials.
"You want as much firepower on your side as you can get," said Rep. Gerry Connelly (D-Va.), a member of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. "We're either in or we're out, it seems to me."
A Boehner aide said there were no plans for Boehner and Pelosi to meet Friday before the speaker left town.
“We made a fair offer. We hope they’ll appoint members. At this point it’s time to get to work,” said Michael Steel, a spokesman for Boehner.
The Ohio Republican's new appointees to the committee include trusted allies as well as two women, including Rep. Martha Roby (R-Ala.), who led another investigation of the Sept. 11 Benghazi raid as chair of the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, and Rep. Susan Brooks (R-Ind.), a former U.S. attorney.
Also joining chairman Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) will be Rep. Peter Roskam (R-Ill.), the deputy majority whip; Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), a leader in the House's conservative bloc; Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-Kan.), a military veteran and member of the Intelligence Committee; and Rep. Lynn Westmoreland (R-Ga.), who is also on the Intelligence Committee and is a deputy chairman of the House Republicans' campaign committee.
Pompeo, leaving a meeting of the seven Republicans on the committee in the speaker's office Friday, assured that it would "be a fact-based inquiry."
"I hope we get everybody working together to get to the right set of facts," he said.
Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.), who serves as chair of the Democratic National Committee, said Repupblicans have "clearly already decided what the outcome is going to be."
"I just think we should consider not sanctioning it or treating it as legitimate, because it isn't," she said.Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times