WASHINGTON — While momentum has been building inside the House Republican conference for a special congressional committee to investigate last year’s terrorist attacks in Benghazi, the GOP leadership is making it clear they still have no enthusiasm for establishing such a committee.
About two-thirds of House Republicans — 153 in total — have signed on to the resolution offered by Rep. Frank Wolf of Virginia to establish “a select committee to investigate and report on the attack on the United States consulate in Benghazi, Libya.”
“I think there’s a lot of frustration up here among members that the stuff that’s coming out now should have come out a while ago, and we should be diving a lot deeper on it,” one congressional source in support of the resolution said.
But House Speaker John Boehner has publicly asserted that he is against the establishment of a select committee, saying he thinks the best course for examining the attacks is letting the five House committees already investigating to continue their work.
Four Americans died in the Benghazi attacks of 2012, including Chris Stevens, the U.S. ambassador to Libya. Republicans have been been holding hearings to look into whether the Obama administration could have done more to prevent the attacks, and whether they attempted to cover up their failures.
The leadership’s position against the formation of a new committee was on display during the weekly whip meeting last Tuesday, according to sources, when House Oversight and Government Reform chairman Darrell Issa argued his committee is better suited to continue investigating Benghazi than a select committee.
It was made clear in that meeting, sources tell The Daily Caller, that the GOP leadership is strongly against the effort to form a select committee. It appeared as if those present at the whip meeting were working to stop any momentum for the select committee, those sources said.
But another GOP aide with knowledge of the meeting told TheDC that there is no effort by Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy and the whip team to actively influence members off the bill.
Asked about the meeting, McCarthy’s office expressed support for the current investigation.
“Whip McCarthy recognized Chairman Issa and the Members of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee for a job well done,” McCarthy spokesman Mike Long said of last week’s meeting. “He has and will continue to support the successful efforts of the House Committees of jurisdiction in their on-going investigation into the Benghazi attack.”
Opponents of the resolution have argued that a select committee could be too costly and would essentially restart the investigation. The current process with several committees investigating the attacks is working, they say.
“The Speaker has faith in the ability of the chairmen and members of the House Committees to get to the bottom of what happened,” Boehner spokesman Michael Steel told TheDC. “He thought the Oversight Committee Members did a great job at the Benghazi hearing last week.”
But those in support of the resolution argue that a select committee is needed because no one committee is focusing exclusively on Benghazi. The current method of investigating the attacks is “scattershot.”
They also argue whistle-blowers might be more willing to come forward if it was apparent the House was conducting a full-time investigation. While pleased with what came out of Issa’s recent hearings, they argue the revelations would have been explored earlier under a select committee.
They also argue Issa’s committee now has it’s hands full with other issues, like the new Internal Revenue Service scandal, and cannot devote the necessary time to the effort.
Kansas Rep. Tim Huelskamp said Wednesday establishing a special committee is ideal so it can focus on Benghazi “without being bothered by other issues.”
“I think that would help us get to the truth more quickly,” he said.
The idea has the backing of prominent conservative opinion makers: The Wall Street Journal editorial page and columnists George Will and Charles Krauthammer have all expressed support.
While the resolution has been rapidly gaining co-sponsors in recent weeks, Florida Rep. John Mica took his name off the resolution last week. That has led some proponents of the resolution to question whether leadership is putting pressure on its members to abandon the Republican bill.
In a statement, Mica said, “It is my belief that with this now ongoing and thorough review underway, it is no longer necessary to pursue a select committee on this matter.”
“With the extensive work now ongoing in the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, a select committee would delay and add costs while not benefiting the urgent need to properly review the Benghazi matter,” he said.
During a gathering of conservative members on Capitol Hill Wednesday, lawmakers offered their support for the select committee. Asked about the topic by TheDC, one co-sponsor said he supports its creation, but, in the meantime, the other committees should keep digging.
“There’s no reason the current committees of current jurisdiction shouldn’t be moving full steam ahead as they are and as I think they are doing very effectively,” Rep. Todd Rokita of Indiana said.