Democrats blasted House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, on Sunday for opening a select committee to investigate the September 2012 attack on an American facility in Benghazi, accusing Republicans of playing politics with the incident that claimed the lives of four Americans, including then-U.S. Ambassador to Libya Christopher Stevens.
"I think it's a colossal waste of time," Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., told "Fox News Sunday" about the new panel. "We've had four bipartisan investigations of this already."
Schiff suggested House Democrats might decline to participate, calling the probe a "tremendous red herring and a waste of taxpayer resources."
The controversy over the attack and the Obama administration's response had been smoldering for several years, but it was re-ignited this week with the discovery of a strategy email from White House Deputy Strategic Communications Adviser Ben Rhodes (also the brother of CBS News president David Rhodes.)
In it, Rhodes spelled out several goals for television appearances by then-United Nations Ambassador Susan Rice just days after the attack. He advised Rice to emphasize that protests in Benghazi and elsewhere in the region before the attack "are rooted in an Internet video, and not a broader failure or policy." Republicans have cited that line as evidence that the administration tried to spin the attack to minimize political fallout.
The email was obtained by conservative watchdog group Judicial Watch through a Freedom of Information Act request, rather than through a congressional subpoena, leading Republicans to also accuse the administration of stonewalling their investigation by withholding relevant materials.
Democrats, though, see nothing but politics behind Republicans' continued investigations.
"This has been politicized like we've never seen before," explained David Plouffe, a former senior advisor to President Obama, on ABC. "There's a very loud delusional minority that's driving our politics, that's in control of the Republican Party. There's no conspiracy here at all."
"What ought to be done here is not another bogus committee," he added, "but real work to protect our agencies."
Republicans have fired back, saying the email raises legitimate questions about the administration's cooperation with congressional investigations and the U.S. response to the attack. They vowed to press ahead with the special panel.
"The administration's withholding of documents -- emails showing greater White House involvement in misleading the American people -- is a flagrant violation of trust and undermines the basic principles of oversight upon which our system of government is built," Boehner explained in a statement announcing the formation of the panel. "And it forces us to ask the question, what else about Benghazi is the Obama administration still hiding from the American people?"
Boehner said the "dismissiveness and evasion" from the administration "requires us to elevate the investigation to a new level."
Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., took issue with the argument that this latest investigation is just another political circus.
"I would say to anybody who believes that this is just about politics, 'Go tell that to the family members. Go explain to the family members how it's okay for the White House to withhold information from the congress and the American people,'" Graham said on CBS' "Face the Nation."
"Anybody plays politics with Benghazi is going to get burned," he added. "So if we're playing politics with Benghazi, then we'll get burned. If our Democratic friends are shielding the administration and trying to protect them...then they'll get burned.
Other Republicans suggested Boehner may be moving to satisfy a Republican base that does not believe their leaders in Washington have investigated the issue aggressively enough.
"There's a firestorm out there across America among a lot of...Republicans who believe that we have not been diligent in taking this issue on and this email is going to confirm all of that," explained former Sen. Rick Santorum, R-Pa., on ABC. "And so I think the Speaker has no choice but to move forward."