By Daniel Strauss - 10/10/12 12:09 PM EDT
Chaffetz's comments came a few hours ahead of a hearing by the Oversight Committee on whether the State Department and the White House ignored evidence that an attack on the compound was imminent.
"Absolutely. Look we have to make priorities and choices in this country," said Chaffetz. "We have ... 15,0000 contractors in Iraq. We have more than 6,000 contractors, a private army, there, for President Obama, in Baghdad. And we’re talking about, can we get two dozen or so people into Libya to help protect our forces? When you’re in tough economic times, you have to make difficult choices. You have to prioritize things."
Chaffetz, the chairman of the House Oversight subcommittee on National Security, Homeland Defense and Foreign Operations, said the tragedy in Libya resulted from the administration's failure to "prioritize" security for the consulate.
"What clearly didn’t happen is Libya was not a priority. I believe what I heard is that it’s because they wanted the appearance of normalization. That’s what they wanted. And that fit with [the] Obama narrative moving forward."
Republicans and Democrats have sparred over embassy funding as GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney has sought to make the attack in Libya a campaign issue.
Romney and GOP lawmakers have questioned whether the administration rejected requests for additional security in Libya. Democrats have countered by charging that the House GOP budget authored by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) would have cut funding for embassy security. Republicans, though, say that the Ryan budget did not specifically recommend cuts to embassy security and that it is unfair to conclude that the GOP would have slashed those funds.
Chaffetz also accused the White House of lying about key details of the Sept. 11 attack this year, charging officials with failing to acknowledge that intelligence warnings ahead of the attack provided ample proof that the U.S. installation would be hit.
"When that intelligence information comes forward, it doesn't just go to the State Department, it also goes to the White House. That's why we have a National Security Council. So for the White House to claim ignorance on this is absolutely, totally not true," Chaffetz said.
Chaffetz has previously charged the White House and the State Department with coordinating to reduce security at the consulate.
"It seems to be a coordinated effort between the White House and the State Department, from Secretary Clinton to President Obama's White House," Chaffetz said on Monday of a decision to deny added security for American diplomats in Libya. "There was a very conscious decision made, I believe — my personal opinion is that they wanted the appearance of 'normalization' there in Libya, and building up of an infrastructure — putting up barbed wire on our facility would lead to the wrong impression — something that this administration didn’t want to have moving forward."
White House officials initially said the attack was sparked by Muslim anger at an anti-Islam film, but later amended that narrative, saying that new intelligence showed that the attack had been planned.
State Department officials are expected to testify at today's hearing and refute the administration's initial claims that the attack was spontaneous.
This story was updated at 9:44 a.m.