Not Just Benghazi Committee: Iran-Contra Had Partisan Makeup Too
Democrats are demanding equal representation on the new Benghazi Committee, but Congress has a history of giving the majority not only the gavel but the power to wield it.
In 1987, when Congress investigated the Iran-Contra arms-for-hostages scandal, the partisan makeup of the House select committee had nine Democrats to six Republicans, CQ reported at the time, with Democrat Lee H. Hamilton of Indiana named the chairman and Dick Cheney of Wyoming the ranking Republican. (Yes, that Dick Cheney).
That’s a more partisan split than the seven to five being proposed by Speaker John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, for the Benghazi Committee. In the end, the Iran-Contra hearings ended in a partisan fashion as well. Eight of the 11 Republicans on the House and Senate select committees released their own minority report, which went much easier on President Ronald Reagan and his administration.
Three Senate Republicans joined a majority report with the Democrats — although they each issued signing statements quibbling with it.
One of those Senate Republicans, William S. Cohen, told CQ Weekly at the time that the rigid partisan split in the House committee reflected the bitter political divisions in the full House.
Congressional Republicans have also noted that Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., had a partisan split when she named a global warming select committee during her time holding the speaker’s gavel. But another select committee named under her tenure — reviewing what Republicans called a “stolen vote” — had three members from each party.
Bipartisan commissions have sometimes had more success.
One of the biggest investigations in recent memory was the 9/11 Commission created by Congress. That commission was not composed of sitting members of Congress, but had an even party split of five Republicans and five Democrats, with Hamilton serving as vice chairman.
It produced a bipartisan report.