WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The Republican-run House of Representatives named seven lawmakers to a special committee on Friday to investigate the 2012 Benghazi attacks, but Democrats called the panel a stunt and were undecided on whether they would participate.
House Speaker John Boehner announced the seven Republicans in a statement, and their names were read out on the House floor.
“I have confidence that they will lead a serious, fact-based inquiry,” Boehner said.
House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi said the Republicans, who have a majority in the House, were setting up the panel with the intention of campaigning on the Benghazi events during midterm congressional elections this November.
Armed militants attacked U.S. diplomatic posts in Benghazi on September 11, 2012, killing U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans.
“Their focus on the Affordable Care Act has run its course,” Pelosi told reporters, speaking of Republican criticisms of President Barack Obama’s healthcare initiative. “Now they have to talk about something else.”
“This is a political stunt,” Pelosi said.
Democrats say multiple Republican-run House committees have already probed the Benghazi attacks exhaustively, without proving Republican allegations that the administration did too little to repulse the attacks and then tried to protect President Barack Obama from the political fallout.
The Republican-majority House voted 232-186 Thursday to set up the 12-member panel, to be chaired by South Carolina Republican Trey Gowdy.
The other Republicans named to the committee were Susan Brooks of Indiana; Jim Jordan of Ohio; Mike Pompeo of Kansas; Martha Roby of Alabama; Peter Roskam of Illinois; and Lynn Westmoreland of Georgia.
Pelosi and Democratic whip Steny Hoyer sent Boehner a letter earlier in the week, outlining proposals they said would help ensure fairness in the committee, such as bipartisan agreement on subpoenas and protocols governing the questioning of witnesses and release of documents.
Pelosi said Friday the Democrats had yet to receive an answer from Boehner, and indicated they were unlikely to make a decision on participation until they do.
Meanwhile, she said, there was a full range of opinions in the Democratic caucus as to whether they should dignify the committee with full or partial participation – or boycott it.
Republicans said Boehner and Pelosi’s staff were still discussing the issue, and Boehner had met Pelosi about it on Wednesday.
Republicans have already declined to give the Democrats equal representation on the Benghazi panel, saying it should have just five Democrats.
Some Democrats say Republicans are targeting Hillary Clinton, a potential 2016 Democratic presidential candidate who was secretary of state at the time of the Benghazi events, by setting up another committee.
The State Department’s review board that examined the Benghazi events found failings on security matters within the State Department, but did not find Clinton responsible.
Pelosi said the families of some of the Benghazi victims weren’t keen on another investigation: “Two of their families have called us and said, ‘please don’t take us down this path again.’”
(Reporting by Susan Cornwell; Editing by Bernadette Baum)