House Speaker John A. Boehner refused to answer three questions posed by reporters on Thursday about whether Republican congressional candidates should be using the 2012 terror attacks in Benghazi, Libya, to raise money.
“Our focus is on getting the answers to those families who lost their loved ones, period,” Boehner (R-Ohio) said repeatedly when asked multiple times whether Republicans should stop citing the attacks in fundraising pitches.
The National Republican Congressional Committee this week has used e-mail blasts and a blog post meant to collect contact information and solicit donations in an attempt to capitalize on the reemergence of the attacks.
Those efforts come as House Republicans work to structure a select committee to further investigate the Obama administration's handling of the attacks that left four Americans dead.
Democrats have accused Republicans of resurrecting the investigation into the Benghazi attacks as a way to score political points with their base -- a charge fueled even further once the campaign committee began soliciting money by mentioning the attacks.
“Fundraising off the Benghazi tragedy is despicable and insulting and has no place in the national conversation," Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Steve Israel said in a statement released Thursday.
Boehner's reluctance to address the Benghazi fundraising stands in stark contrast with comments made by Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.), who will lead the new Benghazi panel.
“I have never sought to raise a single penny on the backs of four murdered Americans," Gowdy said during an MSNBC interview on Wednesday, in which he said that no Republican should be raising money off of the Benghazi attack.
The NRCC has since pushed back, declaring that it will not halt its money raising and information collecting efforts tied to the right's renewed furor over the attacks.
The formation of the select committee, announced last week by Boehner, has been marred with partisan bickering. Democrats initially said that the panel would simply serve as a means of furthering a witch hunt, but then called on the House GOP leadership to divide the committee evenly among members of both parties.
Boehner refused, instead splitting the committee -- which is expected to be approved on a largely party-lines vote Thursday afternoon -- with 7 Republican seats and 5 Democratic ones.
That fueled speculation that Democrats would refuse to participate in the committee altogether, with Rep. James Clyburn (D-S.C.) -- a member of the Democratic House leadership -- declaring "I'm not bringing a noose to my hanging."
Other Democrats, however, have said that they should participate in the panel and aides from both sides of the aisle insist that a final decision on whether or not the Democrats will name members to the committee has not been made.
Boehner and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif) spoke about the committee on Wednesday, and the Democratic leadership is expected to meet Friday to make a decision about whether it will participate.
"No final decision has been made and there are still conversations going on," said Rep. Joe Crowley (D-N.Y.), a member of the Democratic leadership, speaking to reporters on Wednesday night.
The Democratic caucus remains torn on whether it should participate, with several members speaking up in favor of participating during a meeting on Wednesday, according to several people present.
Republican leadership aides have said that, based on the wording of the resolution establishing the committee, the GOP could appoint some Democrats to the committee if Pelosi declines to do it herself.
Across the aisle, House Republicans are clamoring to participate in the committee. More than a dozen House Republicans have said in interviews this week that they want to be named to the committee, and a large swath of the caucus has petitioned the
"There's been about 206 members that have asked to be on it," said Rep. Lynn Westmoreland (R-Ga.), in an interview on Wednesday.
One notable exception is Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Ca.), who was considered a favorite to land a spot on the committee. Nunes told Boehner earlier this week that he does not want to be named to the panel.
"I've work on this for so long, it's times for a fresh set of eyes," Nunes said, noting that he expects the Benghazi investigation to stretch into next year and wants to keep his slate clean in order to seek the chairmanship of the Intelligence Committee.