The US House of Representatives voted Thursday along largely partisan lines to create a select committee to investigate the 2012 attacks on the US diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya that killed US Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans.
In a 232 to 186 vote, the Republican-led House approved the special 12-member committee to be made up of seven Republicans and five Democrats. The panel’s creation was supported by all House Republicans and seven Democrats.
House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) has selected Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC) to lead the committee that, Republicans claim, will focus on exactly what happened during the attacks. The GOP has consistently criticized the Obama administration for negligent security at the diplomatic compound and a lack of transparency around the events of September 11, 2012.
“The White House has engaged in a pattern of obstruction - consistently ignoring subpoenas, redacting relevant information and stonewalling investigators,” said House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA). “This obfuscation and refusal to come clean to Congress has left us as well as the people of this country wondering what else is the White House hiding?”
Meanwhile, Democrats are considering several maneuvers in responding to what they expect to be heated, politically-motivated hearings that the minority party will have almost no control over, all amid a congressional election year.
Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) is reportedly weighing a possible Democratic boycott of the panel, or sending less than five members to the committee’s proceedings, allowing her party to monitor the panel while still protesting its machinations.
Democrats also consider the panel a grandstanding move in the sense that the US Secretary of State at the time of the attack, Hillary Clinton, is the likely frontrunner for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2016. Clinton will certainly be called on to testify before the select committee.
Speaker Boehner has insisted the investigation is not about politics, though he was not as clear on whether he would discourage his members from using the event to raise funds in an election year.
"It was time for us to bring this together into one place and to focus our efforts," Boehner said. "This is all about getting to the truth. This is not going to be a sideshow, it's not going to be a circus. This is a serious investigation."
The attacks by dozens of unidentified individuals on the US diplomatic compound in Benghazi in September 2012 killed US Ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens, an American Foreign Service officer, and two CIA contractors. Ten others were injured in the attacks, which came less than a year after deposed Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi was captured and killed by rebel forces following the NATO-supported fall of Gaddafi’s government.
While many congressional Republicans have pressed for further probes into the attacks, it wasn’t until last week, when a conservative government watchdog group released White House documents obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request. The documents purportedly reveal more detailed information of the events in 2012, both in Libya and in Washington, than evidence previously provided to congressional committees.