A prominent Democratic congressman warned on Monday that the Republican leadership’s decision to launch a new “special committee” to investigate the 2012 Benghazi tragedy will run into the millions, and possibly tens of millions of dollars.
Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) has been an outspoken critic of the Republican-led effort investigate the Obama administration’s response to the attack on a diplomatic outpost in eastern Libya. When asked how much the new special committee would cost taxpayers, Schiff was not optimistic about it being cheap. “I think unquestionably it will be in the millions,” Schiff said in a phone interview with ThinkProgress. “And it depends on how long they stay at it. They seem to have an insatiable appetite for this subject, so clearly in the millions. Whether it will go beyond that into the tens of millions may depend on just how crazy they are.”
History appears to back-up Schiff’s fears. A special committee was formed in the House in the late 1970s to investigate the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. Over its three year investigation, the Special Committee on Assassinations reported spending $4,151,324 on salaries alone — by far the largest expenditure — and more on other costs such as travel, witnesses and leases. More recently, the Democratic-controlled House in 2007 established a Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming, which was dismantled once Republicans took back the gavel in 2011. In the bill to set up that committee, the House appropriated $3,725,467 for the duration of the 110th Congress.
Schiff’s concerns come after last week’s announcement that Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) reversed course and would appoint members to a new “select committee” given the jurisdiction to cut across the four committee’s currently investigating the tragedy in the lower house of Congress. Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC) was officially announced as the head of this new committee on Monday, but numbers about just how much the committee will officially cost have not been released yet. Boehner spokesman Michael Steel said in an email to ThinkProgress that there is not an estimate of the costs for the committee at this time, but added “I expect it will involve reprogramming current funds — not new spending.”
The California Democrat, who sits on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, over the weekend denounced the formation of the special committee and called for Democrats to boycott membership. When speaking to ThinkProgress, he maintained that stance, even as Democratic leadership is reportedly uncertain whether they will take part in the committee. “It’s a difficult call because you know I hate to give credence to a committee that is a purely partisan exercise,” he said. “But at the same time if we’re not on the committee, it doesn’t give us the ability to elicit both sides of any witness’ testimony.”
“But I come down on the side of not wanting to give more credibility to something that lacks credibility in the first place,” Schiff continued. “Whether Democrats participate or not, isn’t going to change the fact that this is a terrible distraction and a waste of taxpayer dollars.” Schiff did add, however, that he will support whatever decision the House leadership makes on the issue and will help the party leadership however they ask. “Again, whether Democrats serve or don’t on this isn’t going to change the fact that it’s a terrible distraction and doubling down on an already extreme loss of taxpayer resources devoted to these conspiracy theories,” he said.
This is at least the fifth resurgence of the Benghazi issue into the national conversation since the 2012 attack, this time due to a newly released email from the White House that conservatives have seized on as the latest smoking gun proving malfeasance on the part of the administration. Given that in the course of investigations in both the House and Senate in the nineteen-months since Republicans began pressing their case no evidence of a conspiracy has emerged, it seems unlikely that the new Special Committee will either break new ground or do more than add to the bill of millions of dollars the Pentagon says have already been spent pursing the truth of the matter.