By Mike Lillis - 05/08/14 03:19 PM EDT
House Democrats will meet Friday morning to discuss the party's approach to the Republicans' special probe into the deadly 2012 attack in Benghazi, Libya.
Some Democrats fear that seating members on the panel will legitimize an investigation they've condemned as a GOP witch hunt designed solely to beat up on the White House. Another camp is warning that a boycott would allow Republicans to shower accusations on the administration without any defense from Obama's Democratic allies.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) sent a letter to Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) on Tuesday suggesting the Democrats would participate, but only if the Republicans alter the committee's blueprint to allow Democrats greater numbers and enhanced powers.
The Democrats have been particularly critical that the 12-member panel would feature seven Republicans and five Democrats. Pelosi and her troops are calling for an even split.
Boehner said Thursday that's he's been talking with Pelosi on the topic, but gave no indication he's ready to compromise on the numbers.
"I had a conversation with the minority leader yesterday and made clear that this is a serious investigation, that we wanted to work together to get to the truth," Boehner told reporters in the Capitol. "I think the 7-5 split is eminently fair."
Boehner, who has tapped Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) to head the select committee, is expected to name the other six Republicans on Friday, and he urged Democrats to follow suit.
"I would hope that my colleagues across the aisle would see it in the same way I do and appoint members to serve," he said.
Yet the Democratic chorus backing a boycott has grown in recent days, with leaders James Clyburn (S.C.), Steve Israel (N.Y.) and Debbie Wasserman Schultz (Fla.) all calling for the party to abstain from participating.
Some Democrats have floated the idea that they might fill one or two seats on the panel, rather than the allotted five, in an effort to have a seat at the table and access to witnesses and documents without fully legitimizing the investigation.
A House Democratic aide said Thursday that Republicans have simply given Democrats no reason to participate.
“House Republicans have already issued their verdict," the aide said.