WASHINGTON (USA TODAY) -- The Republican-controlled U.S. House voted Thursday along party lines to establish a select committee to investigate the 2012 Benghazi terrorist attack on a diplomatic mission that left four Americans dead.
The resolution to create the panel was approved 232-186, with seven Democrats voting with Republicans.
"This obfuscation and refusal to come clean to Congress has left us as well as the people of this country wondering: What else is the White House hiding?" said House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va.
The 12-member panel, split 7-5 in the GOP's favor, will centralize all other House probes into its own investigation. It has no date certain for conclusion and could run in to the next Congress, which begins in January. The committee is tasked with investigating the circumstances that led up to the attack, including the Obama administration's response and communications surrounding it.
Republicans have charged the administration with purposefully obfuscating the circumstances surrounding the attack because it occurred in the final weeks of President Obama's reelection campaign. Democrats counter that the attack was a tragedy, but no cover-up ensued, and that Republicans are using the select committee to gin up their base ahead of the 2014 midterm elections.
"With all due respect, if the Republicans want to fix the problems with their partisan investigation they need more than just a new chairman," said Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., the top Democrat on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. That panel, led by Chairman Darrell Issa, R-Calif, has driven much of the contentious Benghazi inquiry to date. The resolution establishing the new select committee orders all House committees to turn over their records within 14 days, essentially ending Issa's role in pursuing the matter. Issa had issued a subpoena requiring the testimony of secretary of State John Kerry.
Democrats cited as proof of political motivations an email solicitation sent Wednesday by the National Republican Congressional Committee — the House GOP's campaign operation — that invoked the Benghazi attacks. "I think that the fact that the National Republican Congressional Committee is raising money off the creation of this committee is a pretty good indication of the political motivation that's at work here," said White House spokesman Josh Earnest.
Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., who will chair the committee, told MSNBC's "Morning Joe" on Thursday that he did not support using Benghazi to raise campaign funds. "And I will cite myself as an example. I have never sought to raise a single penny on the backs of four murdered Americans," he said.
House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio., avoided repeated questions by reporters on Thursday on whether the campaign operation was acting appropriately saying only, "Our focus is on getting the truth for the American people and these four families."
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., has not yet said whether Democrats will boycott or participate in the committee. Many leading Democrats have advocated for a boycott, but that would leave no Democratic response to the GOP-led investigation that is likely to call for testimony from Obama administration officials.
"I think the 7-5 split is eminently fair," said Boehner, "This is a serious effort to get to the truth. And I would hope that my colleagues across the aisle would see it in the same way I do and appoint members to serve."