Should Democrats Boycott the Benghazi Committee?

Pelosi says they want equal representation.

WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 16: House Minority Leader Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) answers questions during her weekly news conference on Capitol Hill, January 16, 2014 in Washington, DC. Pelosi called on House Speaker John Boehner to cancel next week's recess until the House passes an extension of unemployment insurance.
National Journal
Elahe Izad
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Elahe Izad
May 6, 2014, 6:43 a.m.

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.”

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