Benghazi panel nearly running longer than the 9/11 Commission

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The House Select Committee on Benghazi has nearly lasted longer than the 9/11 Commission, something Democrats are touting to question the panel's work.

As of Wednesday, the Benghazi committee has been in existence for 609 days, or nearly 20 months, with no signs of issuing a final analysis anytime soon.

The panel investigating Sept. 11 released its blockbuster 9/11 Commission Report 603 days after it was formed in 2002. The bipartisan commission was created by lawmakers but was comprised of people outside of Congress and led by former New Jersey Gov. Thomas Kean (R). The commission did not formally disband until a month after the report was released.

Democrats trumpeted the benchmark, which they said was just the latest sign that the Benghazi committee was created for political reasons rather than to investigate unanswered questions about the 2012 terror attack in Libya.

“Republicans continue to drag out this political charade closer to the 2016 presidential election, and the American taxpayers continue to pay the price,” top committee Democrat Elijah Cummings (Md.) said in a statement.

Republicans have rejected criticism of the investigation's length, which they attribute to the Obama administration’s refusal to answer questions and hand over documents in a timely manner.

GOP committee spokesman Matt Wolking on Wednesday claimed that Democrats “continue to waste taxpayer dollars playing politics” by “issuing stupid, meaningless press releases.”

He noted that the Benghazi panel is still weeks away from being in existence as long as the 9/11 Commission, even if its investigation is taking longer.

Democrats’ “complete lack of interest in getting answers for the families of the four Americans who died because they were left without adequate security on September 11 in one of the most dangerous places in the world is grotesque,” Wolking added. “If Democrats would actually assist with the investigation instead of undermining it — and stop acting as a full-fledged arm of the Clinton campaign — perhaps the committee wouldn’t still be waiting for crucial documents and witnesses to be produced by the administration.”

The GOP-led Benghazi panel came under intense fire last year, when multiple Republicans, including House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (Calif.), appeared to acknowledge that the committee was designed to attack former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Those allegations — paired with Clinton’s largely successful attempt to bat down criticism during an 11-hour hearing in October — put the panel on the defensive. 

In addition to criticizing the length of the panel’s work, Cummings on Wednesday chided committee Republicans for what they said was a paltry amount of work.

“Instead of following the bipartisan model set by the 9/11 Commission, which brought our entire nation together after we were attacked by terrorists, Republicans created a highly partisan Select Committee with an unlimited budget to attack their political opponents,” he said.

The 9/11 Commission claimed to have interviewed more than 1,000 people in 10 countries, as well as conducted 10 days of public hearings. The Benghazi panel this week boasted about having interviewed 64 government officials last year, only a few of which were in public.

On Wednesday afternoon, the panel is interviewing former CIA Director David Petraeus in a closed-door session. Former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta is scheduled to answer questions in a separate closed meeting on Friday.

This report was corrected at 12:57 p.m. to clarify how long the 9/11 Commission lasted.