House Democrats, sensing they have put Republicans on the defense over charges the Benghazi select committee is driven by politics against Hillary Clinton, forced a vote on the issue on the House floor on Wednesday.
Rep Louise Slaughter, D-New York, offered a resolution calling on the House to disband the select committee, but it was quickly ruled out of order. Democrats then appealed the ruling, but Republicans voted to table that effort, 240-183.
Democrats knew they didn’t have the votes to shut down the committee, but the move was more about making a political point over the future of the committee. Democrats have seized on House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy’s comment last week touting the committee’s role in hurting Clinton’s poll numbers as evidence the Benghazi panel has outlived its purpose.
Earlier Wednesday, Rep. Alan Grayson, D-Florida, filed an ethics complaint against House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy accusing the No. 2 Republican of using taxpayer dollars to make political attacks against the former secretary of state.
Clinton launched an ad this week homing in on McCarthy’s comments as an opportunity to beat back against the barrage of GOP criticisms she has faced over her handling of the Benghazi attacks and to gird herself against the politically perilous hearing she will face later this month before the committee.
And Wednesday morning, Democrats circulated widely a New York Times editorial calling for that committee to be shut down.
Grayson, who himself was the target of two ethics complaints this summer, accused McCarthy and Benghazi Committee Chairman Trey Gowdy, R-South Carolina, of violating “federal law and House rules by using funds appropriated to the Select Committee on Benghazi to oppose the presidential candidacy of Hillary Clinton,” according to the filing.
“This is a clear and unequivocal misuse of appropriated funds for political purposes,” Grayson writes in the document, which calls on the Office of Congressional Ethics to investigate the two GOP officials specifically and not the committee.
Speaking Wednesday on CNN’s “New Day,” Grayson called McCarthy “execrable” and accused him of “bragging” about using federal funds for political purposes.
The committee has spent $4.6 million in federal funds over the course of its 17-month investigation and is set to release its final report in 2016.
“It’s very simple. You’re not supposed to use taxpayer funds for a political witch hunt,” Grayson said, adding of the Benghazi controversy, “This is the scandal that never was.”
McCarthy made his comments last week on Fox News.
“Everybody thought Hillary Clinton was unbeatable, right?” he said. “But we put together a Benghazi special committee, a select committee. What are her numbers today? Her numbers are dropping. Why? Because she’s untrustable. But no one would have known any of that had happened had we not fought.”
McCarthy has since backtracked and sought to clarify his comments, saying that the Benghazi committee “was set up for one sole purpose, to find the truth on behalf of families for four dead Americans.”
A McCarthy spokesman responded to Grayson’s ethics filing by reiterating those comments: “Rep. McCarthy has made it clear that the Select Committee on Benghazi is not political and only focused on getting to the truth.”
Gowdy’s office did not immediately return a CNN request for comment.
While he was not asked about Grayson’s ethics filing, Gowdy, on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” on Wednesday, rejected the premise that the committee is a political witch hunt and asked the public to “focus on actions and not words” – referring to McCarthy’s initial comments.
But he also defended McCarthy’s costly gaffe.
“What I tell folks back home is I don’t care how many times you put an earpiece in your ear and look into a camera, you still screw up. And Kevin screwed up. I don’t know if it was Hannity pressing him, I don’t know if he got thrown off by asking him to give Speaker Boehner a grade. I can’t unlock the mysteries of that,” McCarthy said.
Grayson’s accusations come as he is still beating back two ethics complaints lodged against him this summer accusing the Florida congressman of violating congressional financial disclosure requirements tied to his involvement in two hedge funds that carry his name.
CNN’s Tom Lobianco contributed to this report.