Defense & National Security

Efforts to appoint “Watergate committee” for Benghazi gaining steam in House

Efforts to appoint “Watergate committee” for Benghazi gaining steam in House

As hearings on the Benghazi murders continue on Capitol Hill, House Republicans are hopeful they have the support to establish a select committee–the kind used to probe the Watergate and Iran Contra scandals–to get to the bottom of what happened.

Republican Sens. John McCain (Ariz.), Lindsey Graham (S.C.), and Kelly Ayotte (N.H.) fought late last month to set up a special select committee in the Senate. But efforts to create the committee fizzled as Senate colleagues, including Republican minority leader Mitch McConnell (Nev.), called the effort unnecessary and duplicative of ongoing efforts.

But Rep. Frank Wolf (R-Va.) said the effort he’s leading in the House has legs, with 14 co-sponsors on a just-introduced resolution and new research from the Heritage Foundation that backs up calls for a select committee on Benghazi.

“This isn’t going to be an attempt,” Wolf said. “We’re really working to do this.”

A new Heritage web posting published on Wednesday argues that precedent supports the creation of such a committee, noting that Watergate and the Iran-Contra affair, while massive political scandals, were bloodless while Benghazi was not.
The committees were also employed to elicit information following the 1941 Pearl Harbor attacks and the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

“As (Graham) acknowledged last month, the risk of stove-piping emerges as conflicting accounts muddle the investigatory process,” writes author Morgan Lorraine Roach. “Because the Benghazi attack covers multiple congressional committee jurisdictions, the establishment of a joint select committee presents an opportunity for a proactive and coordinated approach by Congress.”

Former Tennessee senator Fred Thompson has also written in support of a select committee as the best way to get complete information in the Benghazi investigation.

The committee would include the chairmen and ranking members in each of the Intelligence, Foreign Affairs, Judiciary, Armed Services and Oversight and Government Reform committees, as well as five Republicans and two Democrats appointed by respective party leadership, according to Wolf’s proposal.

“The response over in the House has been very very positive,” Wolf said. “No committee loses jurisdiction. You need a one-stop place; you have to know what everyone is doing.”

Wolf said the creation of a special committee would also involve the public to a greater extent, mandating open and unclassified hearings on the events of Sept. 11, 2012.

Wolf said he is hopeful of getting the simple majority needed to pass his resolution before the end of the year, but a likely roadblock will come in the form of House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), who has expressed reluctance to go along with the proposal, saying he thinks the existing investigations are sufficient.

Less likely still is acceptance of a proposal by Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas) to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate agency heads who responded to the Benghazi attacks. Though Gohmert brought forward that proposition on the strength of a 100,000 signature petition compiled by conservative PAC Special Operations Speaks, the effort has gotten little attention, even from fellow Republicans.

“What we want is we need information,” Wolf said. “We’re not looking to put anyone in jail.”

Wolf said he planned to continue circulating “Dear Colleague” letters in the House to build additional support for his special-committee resolution.

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