The House's No. 2 Democrat says his party hasn't ruled out participating in a Republican-created panel to investigate the 2012 terrorist attacks in Benghazi, Libya, but only if Speaker John Boehner meets several Democratic demands.
"We're trying to see whether the speaker is prepared to assure us that in fact, if we participate, it will be fair," Minority Whip Steny Hoyer of Maryland told reporters Tuesday. "My view is, if it's fair then we ought to participate."
Democrats already are upset that Republicans have allocated only five spots for them on the 12-member panel. But if Boehner has any hope of getting Democrats on board, Hoyer says the Ohio Republican must give Democrats at least the following:
• A role in issuing subpoenas, including the right to subpoena all documents Democrats want to have presented to the committee.
• Full participation in witness depositions prior to their testimony before the committee.
• Full participation in the examination and cross-examination of witnesses, with equal time to do so.
• Full access to any documents submitted to the committee.
• Equal access to discovery and review of witness testimony before, during and after hearings.
Hoyer said Democratic leaders have no timetable for deciding if they will take part in the committee. Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Boehner are expected to meet this week to discuss the matter.
The GOP-run House voted earlier this month create a select committee to investigate the Obama administration's handling of the Sept. 11, 2012, attacks at a diplomatic outpost in Benghazi that killed U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans. Senate Democrats blocked a similar effort in the upper chamber.
Most Democrats view the panel's creation as nothing more than Republican grandstanding since five other House committees-- most notably the Oversight and Government Reform Committee led by Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif. -- already have investigated the attacks.
But Democrats feel their boycott threat carries significant leverage for their demands, as a Democrat-less committee risks being viewed by the public as toothless and irrelevant.
If it's not a fair committee, "it will be perceived for what I believe it to be: a political effort rather than substantive effort," Hoyer said. "There is nothing this special committee can do that the government reform [committee] can't do. Nothing."