WASHINGTON — Rep. Peter Roskam, R-Ill., was handed a potential breakout role on Friday, when House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, tapped him for the newly created House Select Committee on Benghazi, a panel spawned by Republicans and condemned by Democrats as an election year “political stunt.”
Boehner named seven GOP lawmakers to the panel with Roskam a trusted member of his leadership team. Several House GOP insiders told me they saw the Roskam appointment as Boehner installing a stable “monitor” to keep tabs on the committee, make sure there are no surprises and insure it does not “go rogue” with over-reaching investigative sideshows that could end up backfiring on Republicans as the November mid-term elections loom.
Through the years, Roskam has emerged as an outspoken critic of President Barack Obama, with their overlapping tenures in the Illinois State Senate never a reason for Roskam to pull his punch.
The GOP-controlled House voted 232-186 Thursday night to create the panel to investigate events before, after and during the 2012 terrorist attack where four U.S. diplomats were killed, the latest of multiple congressional hearings that already have been conducted.
The vote was along party lines — Republicans for, Democrats against — and that includes the Illinois delegation, where no one broke ranks.
“Benghazi is a wound still open,” Roskam said in a statement. “We all want to believe that our government would do everything to come to the aid of Americans under threat abroad, but without a thorough and unbiased examination of all of the facts, we cannot know who is responsible for the tragic events that night, or how we ensure this never happens again.
“I am humbled by the opportunity to serve alongside my colleagues on the Select Committee as we work to bring all of the facts to light, seek out justice for the families of the victims, and hold accountable those that committed this heinous attack,” he said.
First elected to Congress in 2006, Roskam, 52, from Wheaton, is the chief Deputy Whip on Boehner’s team. His west suburban 6th congressional district is a safe GOP seat.
Congress has already held multiple Benghazi investigations on both the underlying substance — why U.S. diplomats risked being in Behghazi without adequate security — and the subsequent controversy over the talking points of then UN Ambassador Susan Rice as she made the rounds of Sunday talk shows after the raid.
Democrats are mulling whether to even appoint members to the select committee, where Republicans will hold seven seats to five for Democrats.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said Friday at a press conference, “this is a political stunt. . . . We’ve been there and done this over and over again.”
The Benghazi panel may elevate Roskam’s hand among his House GOP colleagues, useful if he is looking to move up in House leadership, an insider game.
As the top Illinois House Republican, Roskam presumably wants to keep his options open for a Senate or gubernatorial run, and in that context, being on the Benghazi panel is not an obvious plus.
Said former Roskam spokesman Dan Conston, Roskam has “the temperament to be tough but reasonable, and questions witnesses well as a former litigator. He’s disciplined enough to stick to the facts.”