House Speaker John A. Boehner laid out details of his proposed Benghazi investigative committee Tuesday night, calling for a 7-5 split between Republicans and Democrats — drawing a stern response from Democrats who said that is unfair and taints the investigation from the start.
Mr. Boehner said the committee won’t have a set deadline for finishing its investigation, but will go until it has the answers to questions about the run-up to the 2012 terrorist attack in Libya, the administration’s handling of the attack, and the White House’s effort to shape public perception of the attack afterward.
“It is unfortunate that it has to come to this, but when four Americans are killed by terrorists in a well-coordinated assault, the American people will not tolerate the evasion we have seen from the White House,” the speaker said.
He said the investigation had to have an open-ended timeframe because the Obama administration has demonstrated it isn’t willing to cooperate.
His resolution, which Republicans are preparing for floor action later this week, would give the committee chairman — whom Mr. Boehner has said would be Rep. Trey Gowdy — the power to issue subpoenas.
Democrats have objected to the outlines of the committee makeup and powers.
In a letter to Mr. Boehner late Tuesday, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer insisted the membership be changed so there are an even number of Democrats and Republicans, and said decisions about whom to subpoena should be made only with the agreement of both parties.
“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,” the two lawmakers said.
The new investigative committee would supersede all other House committees that are already conducting investigations. All of their files would have to be turned over to the new committee.
That would effectively end the ongoing investigation into Benghazi that House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa has been running.
In one cost-saving move, Mr. Boehner proposed that the new investigative committee try to borrow staff from existing committees.