House Democrats are pouncing on Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy’s (R-Calif.) public acknowledgement of the political value in the Select Committee on Benghazi and calling for GOP leaders to shut the panel down.
The Tuesday evening comments from McCarthy — the No. 2 House Republican and front-runner to be the next Speaker — confirmed long-held accusations that the panel has been little more than a political hit job for Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign, they say.
"Everybody thought Hillary Clinton was unbeatable, right? But we put together a Benghazi special committee, a select committee,” he said on Fox News. "What are her numbers today? Her numbers are dropping. Why? Because she's untrustable.”
"But no one would have known any of that had happened had we not fought and made that happen.”
“I believe it is time to end this investigation,” committee member Rep. Linda Sánchez (D-Calif.) said in a statement.
She also called for McCarthy, committee Chairman Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) and Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) to “apologize” for “abusing the memories” of Ambassador Christopher Stevens and the three other Americans killed during the attack on a U.S. compound in the Libyan city in 2012.
“The decent thing to do is to wrap up the committee’s work as soon as possible,” said Rep. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), another member of the committee and a 2016 Senate candidate. “[T]he majority leader’s partisan disclosure breaks the promise we made to the victims’ families to make sure a tragedy of this magnitude never happens again.”
The comments also raise questions about McCarthy’s ability to serve as the next leader of the House GOP. The California Republican has only been in Congress for fewer than 10 years, and his apparent off-the-cuff remarks likely inspired concern about whether he has been sufficiently tested to serve as Speaker of the House.
Matt Sparks, McCarthy’s spokesman, denied that the Benghazi panel was politically motivated, and linked the congressional committee to the FBI’s ongoing search of Clinton’s personal server during her time as chief of the Department of State.
“These inquiries have nothing to do with politics and everything to do with the consequences of what the former secretary has done and her confusing, conflicting, and demonstrably false responses,” he said.
Democrats have maligned the Benghazi panel since it was created last May, and have long alleged that it is merely a partisan effort to dig up dirt on Clinton as she marches toward the Democratic presidential nomination.
Rep. Adam SchiffAdam SchiffSunday shows preview: Trump sits down with Fox Dem rips Trump for going after CIA White House orders intelligence report of election cyberattacks MORE (D-Calif.), a member of the panel who also serves as the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, first called for the committee to be dismantled earlier this month.
Senior Democrats who are not on the panel also were quick to throw punches in the wake of McCarthy’s Tuesday evening comments.
“Even those who wanted to give this committee the benefit of the doubt should now admit it’s time to shut it down,” said Rep. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.), who serves as ranking member of the Foreign Affairs Committee.
“The circus needs to pack up and leave town.”
The partisan sniping is only likely to increase in coming weeks, in the run-up to Clinton’s scheduled open testimony in the Benghazi panel on Oct. 22.