Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy's Tuesday night comments broke that truce. The leading candidate for speaker of the House was suggesting, on TV, that the committee succeeded because Hillary Clinton's poll numbers dropped.
"I think he forgot that, just because you're on Fox News, doesn't mean that the rest of the country's not going to hear about it," snarked Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) on MSNBC. "What he really did is lay out for the American people that this is a tax-payer funded political hit job, and the most disgusting thing about it is that it's being done on the deaths of four brave Americans."
In an interview with the Washington Post, Cummings said that the McCarthy gaffe heightened his concerns about the committee. "It was our hope that it would not be used as a political football," he said. "As a matter of fact, when the families came in, we met with each family -- all four families. All of them said the same thing, some of them with tears in their eyes. 'We beg you not to make this a political football. We beg you to find the facts of what happened that night.'"
Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Ca.), another Democratic member of the committee, went further and called for the committee to be shut down. Echoing David Brock, the progressive operative who founded Media Matters for America and the pro-Clinton group Correct the Record, Schiff suggested that founding the committee for a political purpose had violated ethics rules.
"After 16 months and 4.5 million dollars spent," said Schiff, "the Select Committee has gained no new insights into the attacks in Benghazi; worse still, the committee's leadership cannot even identify a legitimate objective for its continuing operation. Rep. McCarthy's acknowledgment of the Select Committee's true and illegitimate objective further underscores that it is time to shut the Committee down.”
By Wednesday afternoon, Democrats only really disagreed about whether the committee should be shut down immediately, or shut down as soon as the October hearing with Clinton herself was over.
"The decent thing to do is to wrap up the committee’s work as soon as possible," said Rep. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), one of the party's best hopes to win back a Senate seat, in a statement.
"I think we need to move forward and we need to wrap it up," suggested Cummings. "We owe the American people an honest and thorough investigation -- and I think that has been done. What McCarthy said reaffirms what I already believe, that they have tried to push this as far into 2016 as possible."
Still, Cummings had no regrets about the decision to join the committee and engage of months of research and debate. He would not up and quit the committee, and hoped no Democrat would.
"Can you imagine if we're not in the room -- if you have nothing?" he asked. "Someone has to be there to defend the truth."
According to Ian Millhiser, an author and writer at the Center for American Progress Action Fund, the Democrats' best intentions hardly mattered -- and neither did McCarthy's blundering candor.
"The real value of the committee to Republicans isn't that it can make open attacks on Hillary Clinton," said Millhiser. "It is the fact that it creates a central clearinghouse with subpoena power that can leak documents to credulous reporters, who will then print Gowdy's narrative while leaving Gowdy's name out of it. Reporters take oppo research from campaigns all the time. Why would a reporter who is inclined to do so stop taking leaks from the Gowdy committee now that McCarthy has acknowledged something that everyone already knows to be true."