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Washington Bureau notes

Washington Bureau notes fo Sunday, May 4, 2014.
by Chris Casteel Published: May 4, 2014

— Rep. James Lankford, a member of the U.S. House committee that has been investigating the terrorist attack that killed four Americans in Benghazi in 2012, was opposed last year to the creation of a special committee to investigate the killings.

Last May, Lankford, R-Oklahoma City, said the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee was making progress and that he wouldn’t support a select committee “until we have exhausted all possible leads and have hit complete road blocks on key unanswered questions.”

Friday, Lankford expressed support for House Speaker John Boehner’s announcement that he will establish a select committee, saying it was the “next essential step in getting the truth about the events surrounding the attack on our outpost in Benghazi almost two years ago.”

“The Administration has forced the need for a Select Committee investigation by failing to provide — and, in some cases, withholding — information vital to our congressional investigations,” Lankford said.

“On behalf of the American people, members of the Committees of jurisdiction over Benghazi have worked tirelessly for almost two years to find the truth and take the necessary action to ensure failures of this magnitude never risk American lives overseas again. House leaders have shown (Friday) that we will leave no stone unturned to get the American people the truth about the murder of four Americans.”

All four other U.S. House members from Oklahoma have been sponsoring legislation for a year to establish a select committee. Rep. Tom Cole, R-Moore, argued a year ago that a select committee would streamline the investigation and eliminate some of the overlap in Congress.

U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens was among the four Americans killed in the Sept. 11, 2012, attack in Libya. Congressional Republicans insist that the Obama administration misled Congress and the American people in the immediate aftermath of the attack, trying to play down an act of terrorism that would reflect poorly on President Barack Obama weeks before the 2012 presidential election.

Coburn concerned pork will return

Sen. Tom Coburn’s legacy most certainly will include his determined fight to eliminate the pork barrel projects that grew to overwhelm lawmakers and turn their offices into gift shops for lobbyists.

Now, as the Muskogee Republican approaches retirement, he is worried that the practice will reappear after several years in remission.

Coburn and Democratic Sen. Mark Udall, of Colorado, urged their colleagues to sign a letter supporting a continued moratorium on earmarks, and Coburn penned a column for the Wall Street Journal on the topic.

In their letter, Coburn and Udall warned that some members of Congress were calling for a return to doling out special projects.

“We believe this would be unwise and would further damage Congress’ reputation and ability to tackle the nation’s challenges,” the letter states.

“We recognize there are a wide range of views on this subject in our caucuses, but we believe it is important to reaffirm our support for this policy. Congress has ample flexibility to exercise its power of the purse and represent the interests of our constituents without using earmarks.”

Roll Call, a Capitol Hill newspaper, reported that Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin, the second-ranking Democrat in the Senate, is among those who wants to bring back earmarks. Durbin made the familiar argument in defense of earmarks, telling Roll Call that he didn’t want to turn over decisions about projects in his state to Washington bureaucrats.

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by Chris Casteel
Washington Bureau
Chris Casteel began working for The Oklahoman's Norman bureau in 1982 while a student at the University of Oklahoma. After covering the police beat, federal courts and the state Legislature in Oklahoma City, he moved to Washington in 1990, where...
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