In the first days after the midterm elections that flipped the Senate to a GOP majority, Republican members of the House and Senate are already talking about a new way to flex their political muscle: turning the House Benghazi Select Committee into a joint committee that includes the Senate.
"The House has put together a good infrastructure and I like the working relationship between [House Benghazi Committee Chairman, Republican Trey] Gowdy and [his Democratic counterpart, Rep. Elijah] Cummings," says Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., who supports initiating a joint committee. "They seem to have been able to do this in a professional matter."
[quote]"My goal would be to build on what they've done, not duplicate, and have a bicameral, bipartisan hard look at Benghazi before, during and after, getting the story of what happened so we can learn from the mistakes and hold people accountable."--Sen. Lindsey Graham[/quote]
There have long been calls within the Senate for a more in-depth Benghazi investigation. But creation of committees and scheduling of hearings are controlled by the majority party and, under the leadership of Democrat Harry Reid, it was not to be.
Last May, Majority Leader Rep. John Boehner authorized a Benghazi committee in the Republican-controlled House after it was revealed the Obama administration improperly withheld Benghazi documents that should have been provided in response to Congressional subpoenas. Among other things, the documents showed that State Department immediately notified Libyan officials that the attacks were the work of terrorists. This contradicted the narrative Obama officials forwarded publicly, in which they blamed a YouTube video for sparking a spontaneous attack.
The House Benghazi committee has begun work, most of it behind the scenes.
Contacted today, a spokesman for Sen. Republican Leader McConnell, R-Kentucky, indicated no decision has been made on whether to back a joint committee, but said that the House effort "could be something that [Republican senators] want to amplify."
Sen. Graham says he has had conversations with Rep. Gowdy who is receptive to the idea of a joint committee but, ultimately, the decision is up to their leaders in each body: Boehner in the House and McConnell in the Senate.
The alternative could be a piecemeal and duplicative approach in the Senate with committees calling some of the same witnesses as the House. Among the officials who may be asked to testify, most of whom have not previously testified in the investigation, are: former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, her then-chief of staff Cheryl Mills, then-Deputy National Security Adviser (current White House chief of staff) Denis McDonough, then-National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor, then-CIA Director David Petraeus, then-deputy CIA Director Mike Morell, and White House Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes.
McConnell supported creation of the House committee earlier this year.
[quote]“The Obama administration's ongoing reluctance to provide information and documentation voluntarily to the American people and their representatives has created the need for additional action by the House of Representatives. I respect the Speaker's judgment and decision to establish a select committee--particularly in light of the involuntary release this week of additional White House communications.”--Sen. McConnell, May 2, 2014[/quote]