House Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer has a theory on the Benghazi special select committee — and the announcement that Rep. Trey Gowdy will lead it — that is sure to roil Republicans: The Maryland Democrat suggests the new panel may be a rebuke of House Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Darrell Issa.
"Either they think Issa is a competent chairman, and has been pursuing a competent investigation, or they don't," Hoyer said to reporters during his weekly pen-and-pad briefing. "He's had subpoena power."
Hoyer noted that the California Republican has held numerous hearings on Benghazi and has found "no smoking gun, no wrongdoing."
During Hoyer's briefing, Speaker John A. Boehner announced that Gowdy would lead the proposed Benghazi committee — and Issa was one of the first to praise the move.
“Speaker Boehner could not have chosen a Member more committed to getting the full truth about the before, during, and after of the Benghazi terrorist attacks than Congressman Trey Gowdy," Issa said in a statement issued five minutes after Boehner made his announcement.
"Trey has been an integral contributor to the Oversight Committee investigation and takes the knowledge we have gained, through subpoenas and individual testimony, to his new role leading the new Select Committee," Issa said of the South Carolina Republican. "I look forward to continuing to work with him as he leads the effort, across committee jurisdictions, to find facts, accountability, and needed reforms.”
Of course, if you didn't buy the theory Republicans were displeased with Issa's performance on Benghazi, Hoyer offered an alternative narrative why GOP leadership was creating a special committee.
"Political pressure from the base, people who simply want to, for political sake solely, pursue this matter, apparently have availed upon the speaker to change his mind," Hoyer said.
Hoyer noted that Boehner said less than a month ago that a special committee on Benghazi was unnecessary, and he noted that Armed Services Chairman Howard "Buck" McKeon, R-Calif., said he was satisfied with the investigation.
White House emails revealed last week that administration adviser Ben Rhodes sent a previously unrevealed email to then-U.N. Ambassador Susan E. Rice shortly after the Sept. 11, 2012, attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi urging Rice to emphasize that the attack was “rooted in an Internet video, and not a broader failure of policy.”
A senior GOP aide told CQ Roll Call that Boehner was "furious" to learn the Obama administration had withheld that email from a congressional subpoena, and that it was "the straw that broke the camel's back."
Still, Hoyer didn't seem to buy it, and though he said he didn't know what presence Democrats would have on the committee, he expected Democrats to vote against the creation of it.