Will Democrats Participate in the Benghazi Committee?

House Democrats have indicated they may not participate in a select committee to investigate the 2012 Benghazi attacks, even as the House was expected to approve the creation of the committee by Thursday evening.

Democrats have raised several objections to the committee, including that the House has already investigated Benghazi at length, and that the committee would be split 7-5 in favor of Republicans. Democrats also charge Republicans with pursuing the committee for political reasons.

House Democrats are expected to discuss Friday whether to participate in the Select Committee on Benghazi. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

According to a Democratic leadership aide, Democrats will meet Friday morning to discuss whether to select committee members and participate. As of Thursday, Democrats were focusing on voting against the committee.

The possibility that Democrats would boycott the process entirely seemed to have Republicans scrambling to encourage their participation. House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) spoke to reporters Thursday morning, and while he did not say he was offering any concessions to House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi in exchange for Democratic participation, he did indicate that talks were ongoing about how the committee would operate.
“I had a conversation with the minority leader yesterday, and made clear that this is a serious investigation, that we wanted to work together to get to the truth,” he said.

“Ms. Pelosi and I had a conversation about how the committee would operate. There are further conversations that are continuing on that issue.”

One of the big issues that appears to be non-negotiable is the basic structure of the committee, with seven Republicans and five Democrats. Boehner defended that structure today.

“I think the 7-5 split is eminently fair, frankly fairer than her global warming committee,” he said, referring to a select committee Pelosi established while she was House Speaker.

But Democrats have argued for the last few days that the committee needs to be evenly split in order for it to operate fairly.

“The panel should be equally divided between Democrats and Republicans as is done on the House Ethics Committee,” Pelosi (D-Calif.) said Tuesday.

Also souring Democrats on the idea of a committee is their charge that the GOP is pushing for a committee to keep Benghazi in the news in the run-up to the midterm election. On the House floor Thursday, some Democrats noted that the National Republican Congressional Committee is using the committee to solicit political donations.

That advertisement has put Republicans on the defensive over the last few days, and even prompted Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.), who will head the committee, to say he opposes the idea of raising money off Benghazi.

Boehner was asked Thursday morning about his reaction, but he dodged the issue and said he wants to focus on finding the truth about the attack and the Obama administration’s response to it.

“Our focus is on getting the answers to those families who lost their loved ones, period,” Boehner said.