The House's top two Democrats are formally calling on Speaker John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, to revisit the framework for setting up a special investigative committee on the September 2012 attacks on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya.
Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California and Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer of Maryland sent Boehner a letter late Tuesday evening calling the special committee's makeup of seven Republicans and five Democrats "unwise." Democrats sent reporters the letter around 11:30 p.m.
The letter comes ahead of a planned Wednesday House Rules Committee mark-up of a resolution establishing the new Benghazi panel . Rules is expected to pave the way for House floor consideration on Thursday. In their letter, Pelosi and Hoyer stopped short of saying they would decline to appoint five Democrats from their caucus to serve on the panel, which will be chaired by Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C. Several senior House Democrats, including Assistant Leader James E. Clyburn, D-S.C., suggested a boycott earlier Tuesday.
The leaders used strong words to urge Boehner to rethink the text of the resolution creating the committee to ensure Democratic participation, arguing that the move to establish the panel is, like the overall investigation itself, politically motivated in an election year.
"House Democrats put forward several criteria to make the Select Committee on Benghazi truly bipartisan," they wrote. "We asked that Democrats and Republicans should have equal representation on the panel. We also believe Democrats should have a real and equal voice on the committee, including (1) the issuance of subpoenas, (2) the manner in which witnesses would be questioned and deposed, and (3) the specific protocols governing how documents and other information would be obtained, used, and potentially released by the committee.
"In the draft resolution you provided today, you appear to have rejected these principles," Pelosi and Hoyer continued. "If you truly want this new select committee to be bipartisan and fair — and to be taken seriously by the American people — we call on you to reconsider this approach before bringing this measure to the House floor for a vote."
Republicans have countered that Pelosi isn't one to talk . On Twitter, Boehner spokesman Brendan Buck noted that Pelosi's 2007 select committee on climate change was lopsided to favor Democrats, who were in the majority.
Read the full text of Pelosi and Hoyer's letter below:
May 6, 2014
Dear Speaker Boehner,
The attacks in Benghazi were a national tragedy and we join the families of the four Americans who died in mourning their loss. It was appropriate for there to be bipartisan efforts to learn the facts around this tragedy, and there were thorough bipartisan investigations that found no evidence of a cover-up or an attempt to mislead anyone. Unfortunately, for the past year and a half, the House Republican investigations into the attacks in Benghazi have been characterized by extreme and counter-productive partisanship.
Republican staff reports have been issued with no consultation or input from Democratic Members, Democratic Committee Members have been denied equal access to witnesses, and fact-finding delegations to Libya have excluded Democratic Members, in violation of your own rules. In addition, documents and transcript excerpts have been leaked to the press without any official action by the committees.
This approach is not only unfair, but it is unwise. Republican Members have made numerous accusations in public over the past year that have turned out to be untrue after further investigation, undermining the credibility of the investigation and the House.
The House investigations stand in stark contrast to the bipartisan investigations in the Senate, in which Senators Lieberman and Collins issued a bipartisan report, as did the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.
More than a new chairman is needed to correct the obvious deficiencies in this partisan Republican oversight. What is needed is a fundamentally different approach.
Earlier today, House Democrats put forward several criteria to make the Select Committee on Benghazi truly bipartisan. We asked that Democrats and Republicans should have equal representation on the panel. We also believe Democrats should have a real and equal voice on the committee, including on (1) the issuance of subpoenas, (2) the manner in which witnesses would be questioned and deposed, and (3) the specific protocols governing how documents and other information would be obtained, used, and potentially released by the committee.
In the draft resolution you provided today, you appear to have rejected these principles. To the contrary, your legislation would explicitly exempt the new select committee from adopting written rules.
If you truly want this new select committee to be bipartisan and fair – and to be taken seriously by the American people – we call on you to reconsider this approach before bringing this measure to the House floor for a vote.
Another partisan review that serves only to politicize these attacks is disrespectful and unworthy of the American people.
Thank you for your consideration and we look forward to your response.
NANCY PELOSI, Democratic Leader
STENY H. HOYER, Democratic Whip
Correction May 7, 11:30 a.m. An earlier version of this post misstated the year the Benghazi attack took place.