Republicans threaten State’s funding in Benghazi fight

Republicans threaten State’s funding in Benghazi fight
© Greg Nash

House Republicans are threatening to shut down part of the State Department if the Obama administration doesn’t cough up more documents related to Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonTrump touts report Warner attempted to talk to dossier author Poll: Nearly half of Iowans wouldn’t vote for Trump in 2020 Rubio on Warner contact with Russian lobbyist: It’s ‘had zero impact on our work’ MORE’s helming of the agency during the Benghazi attacks.

Frustrated Republicans believe using the power of the purse could force the administration to hand over documents related to the 2012 assault on a U.S. compound in Libya that killed Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans.

“There’s a discussion. We haven’t come to a conclusion yet,” said Rep. Kay GrangerNorvell (Kay) Kay GrangerOvernight Defense: House passes defense spending bill in symbolic vote | Official resigns, worker fired for Hawaii fake missile alert | General says US would have 'minutes' of warning time after N. Korea launch House passes defense spending bill in symbolic vote Overnight Finance: House Appropriations chair to retire | Exit sets off fight for gavel | GOP banks on tax cuts to help in midterms | Crypto exchange under scrutiny after theft | Conservatives push Trump on capital gains taxes MORE (R-Texas), chairwoman of the House Appropriations subcommittee that oversees funding for State and foreign aid. 

Funding could be withheld from the agency’s programs and efforts “unless it relates to our own national security or our allies,” she added.

In interviews with The Hill, Granger didn’t go into detail about what exactly could lose funding, but other GOP sources said divisions such as Legislative Affairs and Public Affairs and the Office of the Secretary could be affected at the department. Critical areas, including embassy security, would not be targeted.

Granger made the comments the same day Clinton called on her former agency to release emails she had turned over from her private server “as soon as possible.”

“Nobody has a bigger interest in getting them released than I do,” she said.

House Select Committee on Benghazi Chairman Trey GowdyHarold (Trey) Watson GowdyContractor awarded 6 million to provide 30 million meals to Puerto Rico only delivered 50,000: report The Memo: Trump doubles down amid some GOP doubts Lawmakers dispute ‘vindication’ for Trump in Intel memo MORE (R-S.C.) first floated the idea of using State Department funding as leverage earlier this month. In an interim report, he mentioned that the House should “consider motivating the executive branch through the appropriations process.”

The concept started picking up speed this week, with House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) conceding “there is a chance of that happening.”

Senior Republicans, including other heads of Appropriations panels, say they’d also be on board.

Rep. Bill FloresWilliam (Bill) Hose FloresEmboldened conservatives press Ryan to bring hard-right immigration bill to floor House conservatives demand vote on tough border bill to avoid shutdown Congress should stand for rural America by enhancing broadband connectivity MORE (R-Texas), chairman of the conservative Republican Study Committee, said his party should “use every tool that’s at our disposal” to get the emails, while Rep. Mario Díaz-Balart (R-Fla.), a senior appropriator, called the appropriations process “the way we can get answers” from the administration.

“I’m open to anything. ... Trey Gowdy’s been more than a patient man, so something’s gotta change,” added House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Jason ChaffetzJason ChaffetzLet’s not fail in our second chance to protect Bears Ears Trey Gowdy announces retirement from Congress House Oversight slams TSA after report says officials 'interfered' in disciplinary case MORE (R-Utah), whose panel conducted its own Benghazi investigation in the last Congress.

Administration officials “have not been cooperative or transparent,” he said.

It wouldn’t be the first time Republicans threatened to slash funding to force the administration to cooperate. Last week, the GOP passed a defense policy bill that cuts nearly $500 million from the Pentagon’s budget unless officials turn over documents related to the prisoner swap of Taliban fighters for Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl.

“The American people have a right to know what happened in Benghazi, and we need to make sure that this doesn’t happen again to imperil future ambassadors,” said Rep. Vicky Hartzler (R-Mo.), the chairwoman of the Armed Services Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee.

Top Democrats dismissed the GOP’s Benghazi funding ploy as an empty threat and suggested the State appropriations bill never would become law because President Obama has threatened to veto any spending bills that implement “the current Republican budget framework.”

“Don’t they have anything better to do that’s more constructive?” asked New York Rep. Nita Lowey, who is both the top Democrat on the full Appropriations Committee and Granger’s subpanel.

“I think they should focus on the agenda and all the work we have to do,” she added, saying the Benghazi investigation is a “charade that’s wasting taxpayer money.”

Rep. Elijah Cummings (Md.), the top Democrat on the Benghazi Committee, also criticized the potential move.

“Reducing State Department funding and personnel will only further slowdown and drag out the Republican’s taxpayer-funded political attack on Secretary Clinton,” he said in a statement.

On Tuesday, the State Department disclosed that it wouldn’t release thousands of pages of emails from Clinton until Jan. 15, 2016.

That release date would come weeks before voters head to the polls in the early-voting states of Iowa and New Hampshire, potentially complicating Clinton’s White House bid.

Clinton responded by pushing for the department to release the emails sooner, and a U.S. federal judge rejected the agency's plan. It called for the messages to be released on a rolling basis.

Any delay could become a major hurdle for Clinton. Gowdy is insisting that the former secretary of State should appear before his panel 30 days after it has determined it has received all the documents it requested from the State Department.

GOP members of the Benghazi Committee have pounced on the issue of Clinton’s use of a personal email server while at Foggy Bottom to cast the nation’s former top diplomat as lacking transparency.

“We’re very interested in every email,” said Illinois Rep. Peter Roskam, one of seven Republicans on the Benghazi panel.

Another, Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), said that “in a general sense, the more information you have ... that helps you get to the truth when it’s time to go have a hearing and ask questions.”

“I’m open to anything that helps us get to the truth. Obviously, the power that the legislative branch has is the power of the purse, and so we’ll see,” Jordan added.

— Cristina Marcos contributed.