Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-Ohio) on Monday evening announced that he is reappointing Republican Trey Gowdy of South Carolina to head the Select Committee on Benghazi next Congress.
The problem, however, is that by doing so, Boehner named a chairman to a panel that does not yet exist. Because the Benghazi committee is select and not permanent, the House will have to vote again to re-create it when Congress returns for a new session in January.
Boehner’s statement did not mention that another vote would need to occur in order for Gowdy to have a panel to lead or for other Republicans to serve on it.
“On September 11, 2012, four Americans were killed in a brutal terrorist attack in Libya. Two years later, the American people still have far too many questions about what happened that night — and why,” Boehner said in the statement. “That’s why I will reappoint Rep. Trey Gowdy and the Republican members of the House Select Committee to investigate the events in Benghazi in the 114th Congress. I look forward to the definitive report Chairman Gowdy and the Select Committee will present to the American people.”
Boehner’s announcement and characterization of a potential report from the select committee as “definitive” comes three days after the GOP-controlled permanent Intelligence Committee released its own findings following a two-year investigation. The House Intelligence Committee on Friday found that the military and the Central Intelligence Agency responded appropriately to the attack. The report was one of more than a half-dozen that have been conducted in the wake of the incident that have debunked conservative conspiracy theories about what occurred that day in Libya.
In May, when the special Benghazi committee was being created, House Rules Committee Chairman Pete Sessions (R-Tex.) said the panel would need to be reauthorized in the new Congress. If the select committee were to be reauthorized and actually published its conclusions, that report would be the eighth formal investigation into the event.
In response to the House intelligence report Friday, Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., released a statement saying he believed there was "no reason" for the special Benghazi committee to continue its work.
“After an exhaustive bipartisan investigation that spanned nearly two years, the House Intelligence Committee now unanimously agrees that the CIA talking points reflected conflicting intelligence assessments in the days immediately following the attacks and that there is no evidence that the intelligence community shipped arms to Syria," Cummings said. "Based on these unanimous, bipartisan findings, there is no reason for the Benghazi Select Committee to reinvestigate these facts, repeat the work already done by our Republican and Democratic colleagues, and squander millions of additional taxpayer dollars in the process."
In September, Yahoo News reported that Republicans on the select committee were attempting to tamp down the previously heated rhetoric on Benghazi in the lead-up to the 2014 midterm elections. The GOP was poised to win back the Senate, and other foreign policy issues, like how to contain the Islamic State, had taken precedence. At the time, two other reports had just discredited many of the wildest allegations the select committee set out to prove.
The cost of the committee also raised questions. Last spring, House Democrats leaked to reporters that the Benghazi panel could cost up to $3.3 million to operate. House Republicans have not released a final cost of the panel for the session of Congress that is wrapping up.
Though there still could be plenty of appetite within an expanded House majority to reauthorize the Benghazi committee and keep the attacks on the Obama administration alive, a vote to re-create the committee certainly would draw criticisms from skeptical Democrats who say they are ready to point to the multiple other reports that have already been completed and the cost of the Benghazi panel to finish work that’s been done by many others. The House either would have to reauthorize the committee through its overall rules package for the Congress or by a separate resolution.
Update: This story was updated to include comment from the top Democratic member of the special Benghazi committee.