Top Democrat: Benghazi committee is 'political only'

In this Dec. 5, 2013 file photo House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer of Md. speaks during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington.
In this Dec. 5, 2013 file photo House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer of Md. speaks during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington.

Minority Whip Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said Democratic leadership will "urge members to vote no" on a new select committee created by Republican House Speaker John Boehner and House Republicans that will look into the Sept. 11, 2012 attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya.

"We think this is a political not a substantive effort. If they want to have a substantive effort, it should be an equally balanced committee so this is not an exercise in partisanship," Hoyer said Monday.

Asked if it's a good idea for Democrats to have a voice, Hoyer said his party has a presence on the Oversight Committee, "and of course Mr. Issa shut off the microphone on Democrats," referring to the March incident in which House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa cut the microphone on Democratic Rep. Elijah Cummings at a hearing to investigate the IRS for targeting conservative groups.

Hoyer continued, "We don't believe the Administration covered-up, this is political only."

Boehner announced Monday that South Carolina Republican Rep. Trey Gowdy will head the committee. "I know he shares my commitment to get to the bottom of this tragedy and will not tolerate any stonewalling from the Obama administration," Boehner said in a statement, adding, "I plan to ensure he and his committee have the strongest authority possible to root out all the facts."

At least seven congressional committees in the House and Senate have already investigated the attacks, but Republicans are convinced there are White House schemes that remain uncovered. 

"We've had four bipartisan investigations of this already," California Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff said on Fox News Sunday, urging Democrats to refuse to participate in what he calls “a colossal waste of time" and "a tremendous red herring and a waste of taxpayer resources."

Boehner announced the formation of the committee Friday.

State Department spokesperson Marie Harf called Speaker Boehner's decision to form a select committee unnecessary, but also said the department would "endeavor to cooperate as much as possible."

Harf said in a statement that Secretary of State John Kerry is aware of Congressman Issa's subpoena for Kerry to testify on Benghazi on May 21st, but that he will continue with previously planned travel to Mexico. "He has been made aware," Harf said, adding, "we were all surprised, quite frankly, that instead of working with us and reaching out to us and offering first an invitation to testify, that Chairman Issa jumped immediately to subpoenaing the secretary."

A new email from the time of the incident which was released last week showed deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes arguing that the talking points ”underscore that these protests are rooted in an Internet video, and not a broader failure of policy.”

The Benghazi attack -- which killed four Americans, including U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens -- occurred as protests around the Middle East sparked. The CIA initially believed the Benghazi attack was linked to an anti-Muslim video on the Internet, but Republicans remain convinced that Rhodes' email proves the White House was determined to cover up the incident.