WASHINGTON — House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi announced Wednesday afternoon Democrats would in fact participate in the Select Committee on Benghazi. The House voted to create the investigatory committee earlier this month on an overwhelmingly party line vote, with only seven Democrats supporting its creation.
After days of deliberation among Democrats and negotiations between Pelosi and House Speaker John Boehner, Pelosi decided to appoint her share of 5 members to the committee of 12. Democrats were divided: participate in an investigation they consider a sham or let Republicans dominate the proceedings when the committee gets started.
“I could’ve argued this either way, why give any validity to this effort? But I do think it is important for the American people to have a pursuit of these question done in as fair and open and balanced way as possible,” Pelosi said at a press conference after the announcement.
The committee members will be: Elijah E. Cummings (D-MD), Adam Smith (D-WA), Adam B. Schiff (D-CA), Linda T. Sánchez (D-CA), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL).
“We need someone in that room to stand up for the truth,” said Rep. Schiff.
Rep. Trey Gowdy of South Carolina will chair the Benghazi committee. He said late Tuesday that he was thrilled Democrats are participating.
“It’s my job to overcome any doubt with respect to the process,” Gowdy said regarding Democrats assertion that the investigation is partisan. “I’ve never had much success prejudging things on the front end.”
Cummings will be the top Democrat on the committee. He is the top Democrat on the House Oversight and Government reform committee, which is one of several House committees that have investigated the 2012 attack on the diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya in which four Americans were killed.
In previous Benghazi hearings, Cummings said Democrats were not consulted about subpoenaing witness to testify. He has an open mind about the process under Benghazi committee chair Gowdy.
“I think we have to go in and be finders of fact, we need to be neutral, I don’t think we need to be making accusations before we even get in the room,” Cummings said.
Pelosi reiterated that Democrats’ concern is that they if aren’t consulted on who will appear before the committee, they won’t have enough time to prepare.
“We don’t think that Secretary Hillary Clinton or Secretary John Kerry or the others need our help in the room,” Pelosi said.
Boehner argued on the House floor earlier this month that the White House had tried to hide what had happened during the attacks, and that is why this new committee is necessary.
“This doesn’t need to be, shouldn’t be, and will not be a partisan process. Four Americans died at the hands of terrorists in a well-coordinated assault. And we will not take any shortcuts to the truth, accountability, or justice. And we will not allow any sideshows that distract us from those goals,” Boehner said.