Senate GOP: We want in on probe

Senate Republicans want to broaden the new Benghazi special committee to include members of the upper chamber.

Their call for a bipartisan, bicameral panel similar to the 9/11 Commission puts pressure on Senate Majority Leader Harry ReidHarry ReidTop Lobbyists 2017: Grass roots Boehner confronted Reid after criticism from Senate floor GOP in uncharted territory rolling back rules through resolutions MORE (D-Nev.), who is resisting the idea.

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Republican lawmakers on Tuesday spoke out after House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) outlined her conditions for establishing a select committee in the lower chamber to probe Benghazi. She said Democrats would participate only if the panel were “equally divided” between Democrats and Republicans.

A spokesman for Speaker John BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerThe two-party system is dying — let’s put it out of its misery One year later, neither party can get past last year's election White House strikes back at Bushes over legacy MORE (R-Ohio) immediately rejected Pelosi’s demand, but Senate Republicans said they would agree to an evenly divided special committee that included senators as well as House members.

“It would make sense if it were bicameral,” said Sen. Saxby ChamblissSaxby ChamblissLobbying World Former GOP senator: Let Dems engage on healthcare bill OPINION: Left-wing politics will be the demise of the Democratic Party MORE (Ga.), a senior Republican on the Senate Armed Services and Intelligence panels.

“I would like to see that, with the ability to get information out of the State Department. That’s where the fault lies all the way to the top,” he told The Hill.

A bicameral special committee is necessary, according to Chambliss, because it would allow investigators to subpoena members of the State Department. He complained the Senate Intelligence Committee, on which he is the ranking Republican, lacked that power when it probed the 2012 attack on the U.S. diplomatic annex in Benghazi.

“We were frustrated in our investigation by the lack of ability to subpoena witnesses and, particularly, subpoena documents from the State Department,” he said. “The State Department was not complicit in our investigation. They stonewalled us time and time again.”

Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainGOP rushes to cut ties to Moore GOP strategist: 'There needs to be a repudiation' of Roy Moore by Republicans World leaders reach agreement on trade deal without United States: report MORE (Ariz.), another senior Republican on Armed Services, said he would support setting up a bipartisan, bicameral special committee.

“Absolutely,” he said. “So there’s equal representation.”

McCain said it would be important to create such a panel because “the Senate has its responsibilities as well as the House.”

The Arizona senator noted that he and former Sen. Joe Lieberman, a centrist Democrat turned Independent from Connecticut, called for the creation of the 9/11 Commission more than a decade ago.

Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamCNN to air sexual harassment Town Hall featuring Gretchen Carlson, Anita Hill Trump wrestles with handling American enemy combatants Flake: Trump's call for DOJ to probe Democrats 'not normal' MORE (R-S.C.), another member of the Armed Services panel who has been outspoken about Benghazi, endorsed the idea.

“I’d like to see a bicameral committee, simply because Congress as a whole is affected by Benghazi. Both bodies I think have been manipulated by the White House,” he said.

Graham said the 9/11 Commission could serve as a model.

Both Graham and McCain voiced doubts that Reid would agree to such a proposal.

“It’s clear to me that both leaders of the Democratic Party do not have the same zeal to find out what happened at Benghazi as Republicans did with 9/11,” Graham said.

Graham noted that then-President George W. Bush initially opposed the creation of the 9/11 Commission but relented after McCain and Lieberman gave bipartisan backing to the idea.

Soon after the GOP comments, Reid dismissed the prospect of senators participating in a special investigation of the attack, which he argues have been reviewed ad nauseam.

“No, we’re not going to do any select special committee over here on Benghazi,” he told reporters.

Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzOvernight Finance: GOP criticism of tax bill grows, but few no votes | Highlights from day two of markup | House votes to overturn joint-employer rule | Senate panel approves North Korean banking sanctions GOP criticism of tax bill grows, but few ready to vote against it Anti-gay marriage county clerk Kim Davis to seek reelection in Kentucky MORE (R-Texas), a member of the Armed Services panel, pressed his colleagues last year to create a bipartisan, bicameral committee to conduct a comprehensive review of the Benghazi controversy.

He introduced a resolution in September creating a joint select committee and urged his colleagues to endorse it in a November letter that included letters of support from the family of one of the foreign service officers who died in the attack.

“It is well past time for Congress to do its job and investigate what happened at Benghazi. The families of those killed at Benghazi deserve answers to their questions,” he wrote.

House Republicans are poised to vote later this week to create the committee, and the motion has the backing to pass. Speculation has swirled about whether the Democrats would boycott the process, as they did a similar 2005 investigation into the government’s response to Hurricane Katrina, which they deemed a partisan whitewash.

Pelosi on Tuesday didn’t go that far, though a boycott is clearly still an option on the table. The minority leader amplified the Democrats’ criticism that the select committee on Benghazi is unnecessary in light of numerous other probes into the tragedy. But she also suggested the Democrats would participate if the process is open and evenly bipartisan.

“If this review is to be fair, it must be truly bipartisan,” Pelosi said in a statement. “The panel should be equally divided between Democrats and Republicans as is done on the House Ethics Committee. It should require that witnesses are called and interviewed, subpoenas are issued, and information is shared on a bipartisan basis.

“Only then,” she added, “could it be fair.”

It’s unclear if Pelosi’s 50/50 stipulation is a mandatory condition of the Democrats’ participation on the panel. If it is, then the committee might consist only of Republicans.

Rep. Trey GowdyHarold (Trey) Watson GowdyControversial ‘hack back’ bill gains supporters despite critics Top Oversight Dem pushes back on Uranium One probe Overnight Cybersecurity: Manafort, Gates to remain under house arrest | Mueller said to be closing in on Flynn | 'Hack back' bill gains steam | Election security gets attention from DHS MORE (R-S.C.), who will head the special panel, suggested Tuesday that the Republicans, who control the House, will hold more seats on the panel.

“We’re the majority right now,” Gowdy said, according to reports. “We’re the majority for a reason.”

At press time, House Republicans announced that the panel would consist of seven GOP members and five Democrats.

Pelosi’s openness to participating in the probe is hardly an endorsement of the special investigation. Democrats have characterized the new probe as a politically motivated stunt to embarrass both the Obama administration and former Secretary of State Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonGOP rushes to cut ties to Moore Papadopoulos was in regular contact with Stephen Miller, helped edit Trump speech: report Bannon jokes Clinton got her ‘ass kicked’ in 2016 election MORE.

Pelosi’s move reveals that Democrats are wary of giving up a presence on the panel, which would allow Republican investigators to take shots at the White House without rebuttal.

John BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerThe two-party system is dying — let’s put it out of its misery One year later, neither party can get past last year's election White House strikes back at Bushes over legacy MORE’s office on Tuesday accused Pelosi of a double standard because, as Speaker in 2007, she created a special committee on global warming that consisted of nine Democrats and six Republicans.

House Democrats fired back, noting that the climate change panel was launched at the outset of the 110th Congress, just as the Democrats were taking back power, to complement standing committees. It was not, the Democrats emphasized, a special panel created to investigate the White House response to a specific incident.

Russell Berman contributed to this report, which was updated on May 7 at 1:42 p.m.