WASHINGTON -- House Republicans are calling for spending $3.3 million this year on a special select committee investigating the deadly Sept. 11, 2012 attacks in Benghazi, Libya that killed four Americans, including Ambassador Chris Stevens.
According to committee documents provided to USA Today by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., the seven-member GOP majority would get some $2.2 million for staff and other operations while the five-member Democratic minority would receive just over $1 million for similar expenses. That would bump the committee's full-year equivalent budget to over $5 million, which is more than the budget for the House Intelligence Committee.
"It is unfathomable that House Republicans are spending more taxpayer money per day on this new committee to re-investigate Benghazi than the committee charged with oversight of the entire U.S. intelligence community," Rep. C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger - the senior Democrat on the Intelligence Committee - told USA Today.
Amanda Duvall, spokeswoman for committee chairman Trey Gowdy, R- S.C., meanwhile told the newspaper on Monday the budget is "the high-end estimate, and we expect there will be less spent as the staffing process is still ongoing, and since not all the staff came on board immediately in May." She added that the funding for the committee doesn't count as a new expenditure because it "comes from already-appropriated legislative branch funds."
"This money funds the functions of an investigatory committee and ensures sufficient funds are available to the Republicans and Democrats at a two-thirds, one-third split, per typical committee allocation," Duvall continued. "These costs include salaries for staff, technology, IT support, publications and document management for classified information."
The committee consists of seven Republican and five Democratic lawmakers, and it is expected to have a staff of 30.
The GOP's prolonged focus on Benghazi is widely seen by Democrats as election-year partisanship. After the House formally approved the creation of the panel in a virtual party-line vote in May (seven Democrats joined the entire Republican conference in voting for it), Democrats considered whether to even participate, arguing it's redundant given there have been seven separate committee investigations into Benghazi already.
Gowdy, though, argued at the time that the fragmented nature of the previous investigations is precisely why this new one is necessary. He, for instance, said he doesn't know what information the House Intelligence Committee has received, and Intelligence Committee members don't know what materials that Gowdy has seen in his role as a member of the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.