WASHINGTON — House Republicans are planning to spend as much as $3.3 million for this year's operations of the special committee they created in May to investigate the September 2012 Benghazi attacks, a bigger budget than the House Veterans Affairs and Ethics committees were given this year.
According to a committee document provided by Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi's office, House Republicans want a $3.3 million budget for this year's operations of the 12-member select committee on the Benghazi attacks. As with most congressional committees, the document indicates the majority party gets the bigger share of the resources for the panel; the budget provides just under $2.2 million for Republicans and just over $1 million for Democrats on the committee. There are seven GOP lawmakers and five Democrats serving on the committee, and it is expected to have a staff of 30.
By comparison, the House Committee on Veterans' Affairs — which has a roster of 25 lawmakers and about 27 staff members — spent $2.5 million in 2013 and has a $3 million budget for 2014. The Ethics Committee budget for 2014 was more than $3 million, with a staff of about 25 serving 10 lawmakers.
Amanda Duvall, spokeswoman for committee chairman Trey Gowdy, R- S.C., said Monday, the budget is "the high end estimate, and we expect there will be less spent as the staffing process is still ongoing, and since not all the staff came on board immediately in May." USA TODAY has reported that hiring for the committee was going slowly because of the need for security clearances.
Duvall noted that the funding for the committee "comes from already-appropriated legislative branch funds," so it does not represent a new expenditure.
"This money funds the functions of an investigatory committee and ensures sufficient funds are available to the Republicans and Democrats at a two-thirds, one-third split, per typical committee allocation," Duvall explained. "These costs include salaries for staff, technology, IT support, publications and document management for classified information."
Since the Benghazi committee was created in May, its full-year equivalent budget would be more than $5 million. This is more than the House Intelligence Committee, which has a $4.4 million budget this year and spent $4.1 million last year. The largest House committees — Energy and Commerce; Oversight and Government Reform; Transportation and Infrastructure — have budgets between $8 million and $9.5 million for the year.
A special committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming created by Democrats in 2007 spent about $2 million a year until it was shut down by the new Republican majority in January 2011.
The Benghazi committee has no deadline for a final report, and it is almost certain it will continue into next year.
Rep. C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger, the senior Democrat on the Intelligence Committee, said, "It is unfathomable that House Republicans are spending more taxpayer money per day on this new committee to re-investigate Benghazi than the committee charged with oversight of the entire U.S. intelligence community."
The budget for the Benghazi committee does not include the costs of other Benghazi investigations that have already been done by four other House committees: Oversight and Government Reform; Foreign Affairs; Intelligence; and Armed Services. Those costs are impossible to calculate because they are part of the committees' regular operating budgets.