House Democrats still have to decide whether to play ball on the select committee to investigate Benghazi, as House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi calls for equal representation between parties on the panel.
Democrats will definitely be voting against creating the committee this week, saying that it’s a highly political endeavor that is unnecessary given previous committee hearings on Benghazi. But with Pelosi calling for an equal ratio of Republicans and Democrats on the committee, she is giving her colleagues an out to not sit on the committee should there be uneven numbers of Republicans and Democrats — if it’s uneven, Democrats could argue that it’s unfair and therefore they shouldn’t participate at all.
“If this review is to be fair, it must be truly bipartisan. The panel should be equally divided between Democrats and Republicans as is done on the House Ethics Committee,” Pelosi said in a statement Tuesday. “It should require that witnesses are called and interviewed, subpoenas are issued, and information is shared on a bipartisan basis. Only then could it be fair.”
House lawmakers are making their way back to Washington today, and will likely discuss strategy informally during evening votes and during their conference meeting Wednesday morning. If Democrats don’t participate at all, Republicans will have a monopoly on the witnesses called and questions asked.
Some Democrats, such as Adam Schiff of California, who sits on the Intelligence Committee, have already called for boycotting the committee. “I don’t think it makes sense for us to give this select committee any more credibility than it deserves,” he told Fox News Sunday. “And frankly, I don’t think it deserves very much.”
A boycott wouldn’t be unprecedented; as recently as 2005, Pelosi and then-Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid both refused to appoint Democrats to a Republican-led select committee to investigate the Bush administration’s response to Hurricane Katrina.
On Monday, a top Democrat, Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, wouldn’t commit one way or another on a boycott, saying that details on how the committee is organized will need to be seen first.
It’s unclear how the committee will be made up. But in reference to Pelosi’s statement, a spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner noted that in 2007, Pelosi oversaw the establishment of a select committee on global warming made up of nine Democrats and six Republicans.
Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., will be chairman of the Benghazi committee. He told The Greenville News that he hopes Democrats will participate. “I still believe that certain things, if done the right way, can transcend politics,” he said. “If I didn’t think [the select committee] could, I would not have accepted the challenge.”