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Sun Oct 25, 2015, 12:09 AM

An idea for preventing future Benghazi-type nonsense in Congress

This is something that just sort of popped into my head this evening as I contemplated the absurdity of the SEVEN prior Congressional Benghazi investigations, besides the current one which Hillary Clinton testified before this past week. The Republican thinking seems to have been, "let's launch one investigation after another until we get the result we want." So I began to ask myself how we could allow for serious investigations if and when they are necessary, but at the same time limit the ability of members of either house of Congress and of either party from using Congress' investigative and oversight authority in service of such nakedly political ends as they have done with eight Benghazi investigations. Keep in mind I'm just throwing this out for discussion, and it is all very preliminary -- this is just what I jotted down off the top of my head over the last hour. Would love to hear any and all reactions j or thoughts anybody hear might have regarding what follows!

I just had a thought as to how we could prevent a repeat of the Congressional fiasco concerning Benghazi. There have already been seven investigations involving 10 congressional committees besides the current one. They were conducted by:

1. House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. (“Interim Report on the Accountability Review Board,” Committee on Oversight and Government Reform 9/16/13)

2. Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs. (“Flashing Red: A Special Report on the Terrorist Attack at Benghazi,” the Senate Committee On Homeland Security And Governmental Affairs 12/30/12)

3. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. (“Review of the Terrorist Attacks on U.S. Facilities in Benghazi, Libya, September 11-12, 2012,” Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, 1/15/14)

4. House Committee on Foreign Affairs. (“Benghazi: Where is the State Department Accountability?,” Majority Staff Report – House Foreign Affairs Committee, 2/7/14)

5. House Committee on the Judiciary. (Interim Progress Report on Benghazi Investigation, 4/23/13)

6. House Committee on Armed Services. (“Armed Services Committee slams White House on Benghazi,” USA Today, 2/11/14)

7. House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. (“Investigative Report on the Terrorist Attacks on U.S. Facilities in Benghazi, Libya, September 11-12, 2012,” House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, 11/21/14)

The current one, which Hillary Clinton just testified before, is the "House Select Committee on Benghazi."

There really should be a law (it may require a constitutional amendment) that says that whenever a House or Senate committee decides it needs to investigate something, there will be ONE investigation covering both House and Senate, which may be joined by any of the committees. (This is in recognition of the fact that various committees may have different areas of inquiry they wish to pursue.)

Here's how it would work:

  • first, all committee chairs and ranking minority members of each committee of both the House and Senate would sit on a Joint Investigations Management committee. The sole function of this committee would be administrative/managerial in determining how joint resources should be allocated among any ongoing and proposed investigations. Since it includes both the chair and the ranking minority member from each committee, it would always have equal representation of both parties;

  • whenever a committee, or either house of Congress as a whole, determines that something should be investigated, the committee chair would formally notify the Joint Investigations Management Committee of the proposed investigation, its nature and its scope. At that point, the respective committee chairs and ranking members would have a set period of time (say, 30-60 days) during which they could discuss the proposed investigation with their own committees, and then notify the Management Committee of their respective committees' desire to either join the investigation or decline to participate;

  • regardless of how many committees joined a specific investigation, any hearings or proceedings would be conducted by only ONE committee, which I will call the "Prime Investigative Committee on {insert subject of investigation}" (probably the committee that originally proposed the investigation or, alternatively, the Management Committee could assign the investigation to the committee they believed was most appropriate to the topic of the investigation. Note that the Prime Committee designation would be a rolling one for each investigation, so if the Benghazi investigation had been assigned to, say, the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, for purposes of the Benghazi investigation, it would be known as the "Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, acting as Joint Congressional Prime Investigative Committee on Benghazi."

  • questions for any witnesses from members of other participating committees (who are not part of the Prime Committee) would be directed to the witness first in writing, and any clarifying questions that needed to be asked would be assigned to a member of the Prime Committee to ask of the witness during live testimony.

  • If a particular committee declines to join a proposed investigation, it would thenceforth be barred from proposing an investigation into the same issue UNLESS new evidence had come to light that had particular and significant implications for the area of oversight which which that committee is charged. The determination of whether any new evidence met the test of significant particular interest to a committee that had previously declined to join the investigation would be made by simple majority vote of the Management Committee.

  • when the Prime Committee had concluded its investigation and issued its final report, its conclusions would be regarded as final, and would not be subject to further challenge, nor the underlying topic subject to further review, unless substantive new evidence emerged that had not been available to the Prime Committee. That determination would be made by a vote of two-thirds of the Management Committee in favor reopening the investigation.

This is just a basic outline, and there may well be things that would need to be tweaked, added or modified in some way. But a structure like this would, I believe, accomplish several things. For starters, it would:

* put an end to the wasteful, duplicative time, energy and money expended by having multiple investigation by subcommittees of the same entity investigating the same topic;

* prevent either party from undertaking multiple, duplicative and repetitive investigations for the purpose of smearing their political adversaries, and from launching one investigation after another in search of a result they were unable to achieve the first time around;

* Reduce the ability of members of Congress to launch a duplicative investigation solely because they are seeking an opportunity to grandstand before the public.

Any thoughts? Are there any glaring considerations I'm missing? Any problems or omissions in any of the above?

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Reply An idea for preventing future Benghazi-type nonsense in Congress (Original post)
markpkessinger Oct 2015 OP
TexasTowelie Oct 2015 #1
840high Oct 2015 #3
longship Oct 2015 #2

Response to markpkessinger (Original post)

Sun Oct 25, 2015, 12:36 AM

1. Let things stand.

The reason why this committee was formed was because new information (primarily new information about Clinton's emails) came after the previous committees adjourned. If somehow a Republican managed to hide records for a period of time wouldn't we as Democrats be howling about a potential cover-up too? I admit that each of these committees serve some duplicate functions, but each committee also has a different charge to pursue in their investigations.

Also, there is no mention of political parties within the U.S. Constitution or any of its amendments. It is possible that in the future that there will be more than two parties with equivalent power within Congress or that it could be split within the houses (e.g. Republicans and Democrats in the Senate, Democrats and Socialists in the House) so that your proposal could also have problems.

It's not a perfect system at all and there is certainly waste involved, but even if the costs are in the tens of millions as have been suggested it still is a pittance to pay in order to keep our democracy.

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Response to TexasTowelie (Reply #1)

Sun Oct 25, 2015, 02:30 AM

3. Wise post.


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Response to markpkessinger (Original post)

Sun Oct 25, 2015, 01:25 AM

2. I dunno. Maybe make Trey Gowdy wear a Phyllis Schlafly wig.

At least that might earn a headline on Weekly World News that he is some sort of transgendered space alien. People could at least get a good chuckle at the grocer checkout.

Other than that, maybe make him wear a red clown nose and start off every speech from the chair by honking it and saying -- on the record -- "give the weeze a squeeze, many people like to."

That might help his self-promotion. (Probably the only kinds of things that would.)

I recommend that he try both -- at the same time. He might even get to the front page of the Daily Mail that way.

Otherwise, people will just say, "Your mother gives you bad haircuts."

That's it.

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