WASHINGTON -- House Democrats forced a vote Wednesday on whether to keep funding the Select Committee on Benghazi, stepping up their offensive strategy after a GOP leader's recent comment that the purpose of the panel is to sink Hillary Clinton's presidential bid.
Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-N.Y.) introduced the "privileged resolution," which required the House to take up the matter within two legislative days, on Wednesday. It failed in a 240-183 procedural vote along party lines.
The measure charged that the use of taxpayer resources for "political purposes undermines the integrity of the proceedings of the House and brings discredit to the House," and that the Benghazi committee should therefore be dismantled and release within 30 days all unclassified interviews it conducted.
Democrats have increasingly gone after the Benghazi committee after House Majority Leader Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) -- who will likely be the next speaker of the House -- last week made the inadvertent admission that the committee has a political purpose.
"Everybody thought Hillary Clinton was unbeatable, right? But we put together a Benghazi special committee, a select committee, [and] 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," he said.
McCarthy has apologized repeatedly, and Republicans quickly criticized him and insisted he misspoke. The damage, however, was done: His comments gave Democrats the ammunition they needed to attack the committee, which has cost taxpayers more than $4.5 million. It has been in existence for 17 months and has no end in sight.
On Wednesday, Rep. Alan Grayson (D-Fla.) filed an ethics complaint against Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) and the committee, requesting the Office of Congressional Ethics to investigate the extent to which Republicans "illegally used appropriated funds for political or campaign-related purposes."
Gowdy's office did not return a request for comment on the complaint.
Clinton also took advantage of McCarthy's comments, using them in her first national cable TV ad.
Slaughter first introduced an amendment to dismantle the Benghazi committee on Tuesday night in a meeting of the Rules Committee, where she is the ranking member. She attempted to strip language from a GOP bill to create a new select committee on Planned Parenthood and replace it with text getting rid of the Benghazi panel. Her amendment failed on a party-line vote.
Clinton is set to testify before the Benghazi committee on Oct. 22. The committee's top Democrat, Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) told The Washington Post that although the panel appeared to start in the right direction -- focused on getting to the bottom of the 2012 attack in Benghazi, Libya -- it has since gone after Clinton and her use of private email as secretary of state.
"We have veered so far from that," Cummings said, "it's incredible."
"Even before Rep. McCarthy’s comments laid bare the true intent of the committee, it’s been clear that Hillary Clinton has always been the focus," Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), another member of the select committee, said Wednesday in a statement. "This is a terrible abuse of taxpayer dollars. Enough is enough, it’s time to shut down the Benghazi Select Committee. If the Committee continues its abusive investigation, Democrats will have to consider how long our continued participation makes sense. We have no interest in lending legitimacy to a committee devoid of any."
This article has been updated to include the statement from Rep. Adam Schiff.