Democrats threatened to boycott the special House committee on Benghazi for weeks, but now the party’s leaders have dispatched five lawmakers to beat back accusations that the Obama administration has something to hide.
“I’ve seen firsthand how abusive the Republicans have been during this investigation,” said Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., who has served as the ranking member on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee during explosive hearings about the terrorist attack on a U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya, which led to the deaths of four Americans. “I believe we need someone in that room to simply defend the truth.”
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., appointed Cummings to serve as the ranking Democrat on the special committee, which will also include Democratic Reps. Adam Smith of Washington, Adam Schiff of California, Linda Sanchez of California and Tammy Duckworth of Illinois.
Even as she announced party members would play a role in the special investigation, Pelosi acknowledged her Democratic caucus was divided on the role the party should play.
“I could have argued this either way,” Pelosi said.
Schiff, one of Pelosi's fellow Californians appointed to the committee, previously called the panel a “colossal waste of time.”
Democrats on the committee will be tasked with two objectives: Ensure Republicans don’t go unchecked during the fact-finding mission, and guard the reputation of potential Democratic presidential contender Hillary Clinton, who was serving as secretary of state at the time of the attack. Republicans have accused Clinton of not doing enough to bolster security at the mission before the incident.
“Leaving politics out of the room is going to be the challenge of this committee,” Sanchez said during a press conference Wednesday.
Since the House voted along party lines to create the committee, Democrats and Republicans have clashed over what form the body should take. Democrats argued they wanted to see an even split of Republicans and Democrats to preside over the investigation. Republicans instead appointed seven of their members and gave Democrats an opportunity to appoint five of their own. Democrats have also argued they want to have a greater say in which public officials are subpoenaed to testify.
But they don't appear too optimistic about an impartial investigation.
Smith, who called the committee a “blow to Congress’s credibility,” said Wednesday, “Right now, it does not look good.”