The House of Representatives voted 232-186 Thursday evening to establish a new Select Committee to investigate the Benghazi, Libya, diplomatic mission terrorist attacks that killed four Americans on Sept. 11, 2012.
All but seven Democrats voted against the resolution while all Republicans voted in favor.
The committee, which will be formally known as the Select Committee on the Events Surrounding the 2012 Terrorist Attack in Benghazi, will have the power to subpoena testimony and documents.
“This doesn’t need to be, shouldn’t be, and will not be a partisan process,” House Speaker John Boehner said on the floor as he opened up debate on the resolution. “Our system of government depends on transparency and accountability. Either we do this well or we face the terrifying prospect of our people having less knowledge and less power over their own government. And we owe it to future generations to make the right choice.”
But as the debate proceeded, lawmakers were clearly divided down party lines.
“Unfortunately, the White House has engaged in a pattern of obstruction – consistently ignoring subpoenas, redacting relevant information and stonewalling investigators,” House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., said during debate on the resolution. “This obfuscation and refusal to come clean to Congress has left us as well as the people of this country wondering what else is the White House hiding?”
Democrats, meanwhile, have characterized the creation of a select committee as a political gambit by Republicans intended to fire up their conservative base.
“[Republicans] have been using the deaths of these four Americans for political campaign fundraising,” Rep. Elijah Cummings, the top Democrat on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, said. “I call on the speaker of the House to end that process right now.”
Earlier this week, Boehner named Rep. Trey Gowdy as the panel’s chairman and determined that the committee will consist of seven Republicans and five Democrats. Democrats pushed equal membership on the committee.
It remains unclear whether Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi will appoint any of her colleagues to the panel.
A senior Democratic leadership aide said that Pelosi is considering three options: full participation, no participation and minimal participation. That decision could be made as soon as Friday, a source close to the discussions said.
The seven Democrats voting in support of the resolution, including several Blue Dog Democrats, are mostly locked in toss-up races this fall. Reps. Ron Barber, D-Ariz., John Barrow, D-Ga., Mike McIntyre, D-N.C., Patrick Murphy, D-Fla., Collin Peterson, D-Minn., Nick Rahall, D-W.V., and Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., all voted aye.