As of Wednesday, the House Select Committee on Benghazi has been in existence for 609 days, surpassing the length of time the 9/11 Commission took to investigate the terrorist attacks that killed nearly 3,000 people on Sept. 11, 2001. "Instead of following the bipartisan model set by the 9/11 Commission, which brought our entire nation together after we were attacked by terrorists, Republicans created a highly partisan Select Committee with an unlimited budget to attack their political opponents," said Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland, the committee's top Democrat. "Republicans continue to drag out this political charade closer to the 2016 presidential election, and the American taxpayers continue to pay the price."
It's long been difficult to find a legitimate purpose for the Republicans' Benghazi Committee, but as of October, the panel was simply indefensible. A farcical 11-hour hearing with Hillary Clinton, coupled with a series of internal controversies, made clear that the committee needed to pull the plug.
But it didn't. In fact, McClatchy reported this morning on the partisan exercise passing an ignominious milestone.
Remember, even congressional Republicans have admitted the committee is a partisan exercise, making it that much more difficult to justify its prolonged existence.
For the record, the 9/11 Commission, a bipartisan panel created to investigate the worst terrorist attack ever on American soil, conducted its work over 1 year, 7 months, and 25 days -- which works out to 604 days, five fewer than this current charade.
A report from Benghazi Committee Democrats added, "The Benghazi Select Committee has surpassed multiple previous congressional investigations, including the investigations of Hurricane Katrina, the attack on Pearl Harbor, the assassination of President Kennedy, Iran-Contra, Church Committee, and Watergate."
What's more, the Benghazi investigation, which has cost American taxpayers nearly $5.6 million, isn't done. There is no end date in mind, and there's every reason to believe GOP lawmakers will just keep it going, probably with this year's elections in mind.
Just so we're clear, though I find the Republicans' Benghazi Committee ridiculous, I'm not suggesting the deadly terrorist attack in Libya, which left four Americans dead, is unworthy of investigation. Just the opposite is true -- Congress had a responsibility to determine what happened and take steps to prevent similar attacks in the future.
But therein lies the point: seven separate congressional committees investigated the Benghazi attack before the Select Committee was even created. It was one of the most scrutinized events in American history. Republican lawmakers, however, didn't quite care for what the evidence told them, so they effectively concluded, "Maybe an eighth committee will tell us something the other seven committees didn't."
That, alas, was 609 days ago. If there's a coherent defense for this exercise, I can't think of it.