Becerra: Democrats will participate if Benghazi panel 'fair, open and balanced'

A senior House Democrat said Sunday the party is ready to participate in the Benghazi select committee as long as the process is “fair, open and balanced.”

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Rep. Xavier Becerra (D-Calif.), who as caucus chairman is the fourth-ranking House Democrat, would not commit to the party appointing members to the new House panel, but he said Democrats did not have specific demands like a requirement to sign off on the issuing of subpoenas.

“If it’s a fair, open and balanced process then absolutely,” Becerra said on “Fox News Sunday” when asked if Democrats would participate in the select committee. “But we don’t want to see reckless irresponsible handling of an affair that took the lives of four brave Americans.”

“We’ve always said that we’re ready to participate,” he added. “We have an oversight responsibility in Congress. What we don’t want to see is reckless and irresponsible use of taxpayer money to do these witch hunts.”

While Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) has appointed all seven Republican members to the committee that the House voted to establish last week, Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) left for the weekend without naming any Democrats to the panel. She told reporters the caucus is split on whether to participate, with some lawmakers urging a boycott on the grounds that the committee is politically motivated and unnecessary.

But on Sunday, Becerra said Democrats simply did not want to be “excluded” from key decisions.

“What we’re simply saying is 'make it a process where we can’t be excluded from the interviewing of witnesses, where we can’t be excluded when a decision is made to subpoena a witness,' ” he said. “'Make it so we’re all in the room when we’re reviewing the documents that are supposed to be evidence.' What we don’t want to be is excluded. We don’t want the American public to be shut out.”

Appearing on the same program, committee Chairman Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) sought to dispel Democratic concerns they would be shut out.

“I don’t run my committees the way that Democrats are fearful of,” he said. “I want everyone to say it was fair, it was exhaustive, and we knew more than we did when it started.”

Gowdy said Republicans would be “punished” if they overplay their hand in the probe of an attack that killed four Americans at the U.S. consulate on Sept. 11, 2012. And he repeated his call for the GOP to forbid fundraising pitches off the Benghazi select committee.

He said that while he wanted to ask former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton why the U.S. remained in Benghazi despite warnings of deteriorating security, the committee was not out to get her.

“I have no friends to reward and no foes to punish,” Gowdy said.