By Mike Lillis - 05/07/14 08:47 AM EDT
House Democratic leaders on Wednesday blasted Speaker John Boehner’s blueprint for a select committee to investigate the deadly attacks on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, on Sept. 11, 2012.
In a letter to Boehner (R-Ohio), Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) decried what they called “extreme and counter-productive partisanship” underlying the Republican investigations into the tragedy to date, and denounced the new special committee as more of the same.
Pelosi and Hoyer suggested the blueprint sets the stage for a partisan witch hunt designed only to embarrass the Obama administration ahead of November's elections.
They called on Boehner to rework his proposal so that panel members are equally divided between the parties, rather than the 7-5 split now envisioned. They're also calling on the Republicans to grant committee Democrats equal powers to issue subpoenas, depose witnesses and gather documents.
“If you truly want this new select committee to be bipartisan and fair — and to be taken seriously by the American people — we call on you to reconsider this approach before bringing this measure to the House floor for a vote,” Pelosi and Hoyer wrote.
“Another partisan review that serves only to politicize these attacks is disrespectful and unworthy of the American people.”
The letter suggests that the Democrats will oppose the creation of the select panel when it comes up for a House vote later this week. There is no indication yet, however, whether the Democrats will boycott the process if the GOP majority passes the measure, as expected.
On Tuesday morning, Pelosi had urged Boehner and the Republicans to create a panel split evenly with bipartisan members, in the mold of the House Ethics Committee.
Pelosi's office on Tuesday did not respond to a question of whether the 7-5 ratio is suitable in the eyes of the Democrats.
Under pressure from conservatives, Boehner on Tuesday night unveiled legislation to create the special panel to investigate the Benghazi attacks, which killed four Americans, including the U.S. ambassador to Libya. The Speaker had long-resisted such a committee, but argued that stonewalling by the Obama administration left him little choice but to reverse course.
“It is unfortunate that it has to come to this,” Boehner said in a statement, “but when four Americans are killed by terrorists in a well-coordinated assault, the American people will not tolerate the evasion we have seen from the White House.”
The proposal would create a 12-member panel consisting of seven Republicans and five Democrats to probe the attack. It contains no budget stipulations, nor a timeline for the committee to report its findings to Congress.