Three events that speak volumes
We’ve seen -- or will see -- three separate but related events in 24 hours that tell us a lot about the current state of politics in Washington. The first event, per NBC’s Frank Thorp’s reporting, was yesterday’s mostly party-line 231-187 vote to hold former IRS official Lois Lerner in contempt of Congress for refusing to testify in front of Darrell Issa’s House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. The second event is today’s expected vote around 5:00 pm ET to establish a select House committee to investigate the 2012 Benghazi attack, and that’s also expected to pass in a partisan vote. And the third event was the congressional testimony from health-insurance executives about the state of the health-care law. What they said surprised the Republicans in charge of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, the New York Times writes. These executives said the law hadn’t led to a government takeover of their industry; they declined to endorse the GOP predictions that premiums are going to spike next year; and they said about 80% of enrollees on the health-care exchanges have paid their premiums -- higher than a previous GOP report had stated. So why has the political conversation turned back to Benghazi and the IRS? You have to wonder if that testimony on the health-care law provides the pretty clear answer.
As we’ve said before, Republicans creating a select committee to investigate Benghazi -- again -- is riskier than they might realize, especially with our recent NBC/WSJ poll showing that 47% of Americans want to focus LESS on world affairs. It also becomes risky when Republicans start fundraising off the committee. The National Republican Congressional Committee authored a blog post on Tuesday entitled: "Here's What You Need To Know About Trey Gowdy & The House GOP's Select Committee on Benghazi." Then, at the bottom, the blog post allows viewers to enter their names and emails to "stand with Congressman Gowdy." And then there's the line: "Help fight liberals by donating today." This all comes as Gowdy said Wednesday on MSNBC's "Morning Joe" that Republicans shouldn't raise money off Benghazi. "Yes, and I will cite myself as an example," he said on the program, per Politico. "I have never sought to raise a single penny on the backs of four murdered Americans." One would assume that the House GOP leadership tries to put an end to this fundraising business once and for all. But it’s been surprising how they haven’t been on top of this -- given how much Democrats are looking to make the “it’s all politics” point.
Democrats divided on whether to participate on the Benghazi committee
But while this might be risky business for Republicans, Democrats have tied themselves into knots over whether to participate on the Benghazi committee. The Democratic argument AGAINST participating is that it’s a political stunt, and that showing up legitimizes it. The Dem argument FOR participating is that they can’t let the Republicans dominate the hearings, and that they must have a voice to push back against the GOP’s charges. Interestingly, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi -- by issuing demands to participate -- has backed Democrats into a corner to accept the “FOR” option if the GOP comes close to meeting those demands. Equally interesting is that Republicans, if they truly want Democratic buy-in, haven’t bent over backwards to at least accommodate some of those demands.