WASHINGTON (AP) — Divided House Democrats are weighing whether to participate in a new investigation of the deadly attack in Benghazi, Libya, or boycott the election-year inquiry of a tragedy they accuse Republicans of politicizing.
Party leaders will meet with rank-and-file members Friday to decide the next step after Republicans the day before rammed through a resolution creating a special select committee to examine the Sept. 11, 2012, assault. Four Americans, including U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens, were killed when militants stormed the diplomatic outpost.
The vote Thursday to create the special committee was 232-186. Seven Democrats, many of whom face tough re-elections in November, broke ranks and joined the GOP majority.
The panel's investigation will be the eighth on Benghazi and means high-profile hearings in the months leading up to the elections, with Republicans grilling current and former Obama administration officials. Certain to be called to testify is former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, the Democrats' potential 2016 presidential candidate.
Democrats are split over whether to boycott the select committee, which will have a 7-5 Republican edge in membership. They are concerned that their participation would grant legitimacy to what they believe will be a partisan forum. But they also worry that if they avoid it they won't have the chance to counter GOP claims and defend potential witnesses.
"This doesn't need to be, shouldn't be and will not be a partisan process," House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said in a speech on the House floor promising pursuit of the truth.
Democrats have their doubts.
"This is 100 percent pure politics," Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida, chair of the Democratic National Committee, said Friday. She charged that Republicans are exploiting the families of the four victims of the Benghazi attack by keeping the issue alive.