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 Mason ReidThe Supreme Court vacancy — yet another congressional food fight Trump seeks to turn around campaign with Supreme Court fight On The Trail: Battle over Ginsburg replacement threatens to break Senate 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 BoehnerLongtime House parliamentarian to step down Five things we learned from this year's primaries Bad blood between Pelosi, Meadows complicates coronavirus talks 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 ChamblissClarence (Saxby) Saxby ChamblissLobbying world GOP lobbyist tapped for White House legislative affairs The Hill's Morning Report - Gillibrand drops out as number of debaters shrinks 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 McCainCindy McCain endorses Biden: He's only candidate 'who stands up for our values' Biden says Cindy McCain will endorse him Biden's six best bets in 2016 Trump states 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 GrahamSenate GOP aims to confirm Trump court pick by Oct. 29: report The Hill's Campaign Report: GOP set to ask SCOTUS to limit mail-in voting Senate GOP sees early Supreme Court vote as political booster shot 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 CruzTrump argues full Supreme Court needed to settle potential election disputes Press: Notorious RBG vs Notorious GOP The Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by Facebook - Washington on edge amid SCOTUS vacancy 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 GowdySunday shows preview: Election integrity dominates as Nov. 3 nears Tim Scott invokes Breonna Taylor, George Floyd in Trump convention speech Sunday shows preview: Republicans gear up for national convention, USPS debate continues in Washington 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 ClintonButtigieg stands in as Pence for Harris's debate practice Senate GOP sees early Supreme Court vote as political booster shot Poll: 51 percent of voters want to abolish the electoral college 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.

BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerLongtime House parliamentarian to step down Five things we learned from this year's primaries Bad blood between Pelosi, Meadows complicates coronavirus talks 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.