Pelosi appoints 5 House Dems to Benghazi select committee

Earlier today, The Hill reported that Nancy Pelosi was ready to concede on the Benghazi select committee, and it didn’t take long for her to do so:

The only surprise is that it took this long to decide. Pelosi had begun to lean in the direction of participating in the select committee on Benghazi, if for no other reason than to keep from getting left behind in the narrative. Instead of just appointing one troublemaker, though, she’ll fill all five slots:

The following Democratic Members will serve on the Select Committee on Benghazi:

  • Elijah E. Cummings (D-MD), Ranking Member, Committee on Oversight & Government Reform
  • Adam Smith (D-WA), Ranking Member, Armed Services Committee
  • Adam B. Schiff (D-CA), Committee on Appropriations (Subcommittee on State & Foreign Operations), Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence
  • Linda T. Sánchez (D-CA), Committee on Ways and Means (Subcommittee on Oversight)
  • Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Armed Services Committee, Committee on Oversight & Government Reform

Note that Alan Grayson is not among the group. There had been some suggestion to send only Grayson to provide a clown show to generate mocking press, but this looks a little more serious on Pelosi’s part. The appointment of Duckworth in particular is a deft touch, while Cummings has proven himself as a man who can reliably distract attention when needed.

The Hill’s Mike Lillis explained the thinking earlier:

But a senior Democratic aide said Wednesday that, while the decision is not final, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) “is now leaning toward appointing a full complement of Members to the Select Committee on Benghazi.”

Pelosi met with Democratic leaders Wednesday morning, and a second meeting is “likely” later in the day, to update lawmakers on the negotiations between Pelosi’s office and that of Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), the aide said.

Pelosi met briefly with Boehner to discuss the Benghazi panel on Tuesday afternoon, and staff was continuing the discussion Wednesday morning. …

“Talks between Pelosi and Boehner staff continue this morning on remaining items Democrats are asking for to ensure fairness, transparency and balance with respect to the committee’s proceedings and operations,” the Democratic aide said. “To reiterate, no decision has been made.”

The delay in the decision came from Pelosi’s desire to twist arms on committee rules for Democratic participation. That presumed that Republicans are desperate to have Democrats take part in the select committee for reasons of credibility and respectability. Supposedly, that would force Boehner and chair Trey Gowdy to allow the minority to have more control over the direction of the committee’s work, and to get equal power and authority — both of which Pelosi refused in her own 2007 select committee on global warming.

However, this strategy rested on a false premise. For Republicans, credibility won’t rest on the actual participation of Democrats as much as it does providing them with the standard access given to the minority side in any select-committee investigation. There’s nothing about the Benghazi probe that makes balanced participation more necessary than, say, the Senate’s select Watergate committee, which had a 4-3 split. Similarly, the select committees on Iran-Contra were split 6-5 in the Senate and 8-7 in the House, all favoring Democrats. All Republicans have to do is offer the opportunity to participate in order to maintain process credibility; they can’t be responsible if Democrats are too petulant to join.

Besides, the VA scandal and the parallels to White House inaction are rapidly eroding the outrageous-outrage claims of Democrats who argue that the Benghazi probe is just about politics. The more that Barack Obama’s statements and (in)action on the VA follow the same pattern as Benghazi, IRS, and other scandals, the more it looks like Democrats are the ones playing politics with the deaths of Americans. That, plus losing control of the narrative, make it far more incumbent on Pelosi to participate than for Boehner to bend over backwards to accommodate her demands.