Republican leaders are coming under new pressure from conservatives to allow a House vote on legislation that would form a special committee to investigate the Benghazi, Libya, attack.
Rep. Steve Stockman (R-Texas) is circulating a discharge petition that would force GOP leaders to allow a House vote on forming a committee to investigate events leading up to the terrorist attack last year on the U.S. mission in Benghazi, Libya, as well as the Obama administration’s response.
Conservative lawmakers have been pressing for the creation of a special committee, but GOP leaders have resisted, arguing existing panels can investigate the incident on their own.
If Stockman can get 218 House members to support his discharge petition, it would force a vote on the House floor.
Discharge petitions are very rarely introduced by members of the party that’s in power.
They invariably infuriate leadership since they’re a way to get around the scheduling process for bills, which is controlled by the majority leader, in this case, Rep. Eric Cantor (R-Va.).
To promote his effort, Stockman, an outspoken freshman, will unveil on Tuesday a 60-foot-long scroll signed by 1,000 special operations veterans who support the select committee. Supporters tout it as the largest petition ever presented to Congress, and Stockman plans to unroll it down the Capitol’s steps.
“The only way we’re going to get a clean and thorough investigation is by forcing a vote with a discharge petition,” Stockman said in announcing his plan last week.
The only Republican to introduce a discharge petition during the last Congress was Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas).
Two years ago, Gohmert fought for a vote on his bipartisan bill exempting military salaries from negotiations to avert a government shutdown in 2011 after it stalled in the Armed Services and Transportation and Infrastructure committees. His discharge petition got 30 signatures, and the bill died in committee.
Gohmert was an early co-sponsor of the Benghazi select committee legislation and is scheduled to appear alongside Stockman on Tuesday. Former Rep. Allen West (R-Fla.), who lost reelection, is also slated to appear.
Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and other GOP leaders say current panels are doing a fine job with oversight on Benghazi.
“Four committees are heavily involved in this,” Boehner told Fox News in May after State Department officials criticized the administration’s response the night of the attack.
“I don’t think at this point in time that it’s necessary. Now, we may get to a point where it is. But at this point, I think our committees are doing a very good job, and I’m going to be supportive of them.”
Some 160 lawmakers have signed on to a resolution from Rep. Frank Wolf (R-Va.) calling for a select committee. The resolution has been stuck since January in the Rules Committee, which is controlled by Boehner ally Rep. Pete Sessions (R-Texas).
Wolf has said that Boehner would be “complicit” in an Obama administration “cover-up” if he does not allow for the creation of a select committee.
Wolf and Stockman did not return requests for comment.
Several senators — notably John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) — have also personally urged Boehner to reconsider his position after a State Department official testified that the embassy knew from the start that the assault in Benghazi was a terrorist attack. Some Republicans have accused President Obama of deliberately misleading voters about the attack to preserve his national security credentials ahead of the November presidential election.
“I’ve raised it to him; I’ve talked to him. It’s his decision to make, but we’re making a big mistake by not doing a select committee,” Graham told The Hill in May. “We’ve communicated a lot, but we should probably do more in light of the building momentum in the House.”
House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) has taken the lead in investigating the attack that killed Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans Sept. 11, 2012. Four other committees collaborated on an interim report in April that did little to placate Boehner’s critics.
The House Foreign Affairs Committee had been scheduled to hold a hearing with a State Department official who says he was unfairly punished after the attack while higher-ups were left alone. Stockman, a member of the panel, introduced his discharge petition last week after Chairman Ed Royce (R-Calif.) postponed the hearing until after the August recess.
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