Why Only One House Committee Is Investigating Hillary Clinton's Emails

The House Oversight panel had suggested it would do its own probe, but is standing down for now.

House Republicans have decided that two probes are too many—for now—when it comes to investigating Hillary Clinton's use of a personal email account to conduct State Department business.

The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee has confirmed that it has halted plans to investigate the issue, deferring to the Select Committee on Benghazi.

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"House Oversight continues to provide support to Congressman [Trey] Gowdy and the Select Committee on Benghazi in their ongoing investigation into Secretary Clinton," said Melissa Subbotin, Chaffetz's committee spokeswoman. She said Oversight is not doing a separate investigation into the emails "at this time."

Democrats pounced earlier this month on the idea that multiple committees might probe the emails. "I think it's overkill. I think it's unprecedented," House Oversight and Government Reform ranking member Elijah Cummings told Bloomberg News on March 16.

Subbotin did not say why the panel has decided to back off. But the decision marks a reversal from Oversight Chairman Jason Chaffetz's plans in mid-March, when according to multiple press reports he vowed to send a detailed inquiry, seek access to Clinton's emails, and would not rule out a subpoena.

He told The Wall Street Journal in a March 11 story that "we're going to get to the bottom of this."

Chaffetz, a Utah Republican who became the powerful Oversight Committee's chairman this year, has noted that his committee has its own turf when it comes to investigating adherence to federal records requirements.

"The House Oversight Committee has a long history of investigating violations of the Federal Records Act and we will continue looking into this matter to ensure that all records were properly preserved in accordance with the law," Chaffetz said in a statement followed Clinton's March 10 press conference on her use of a private account and her own server to conduct State Department business.

And as recently as March 17, Speaker John Boehner appeared to suggest a role for both panels—after being asked by a reporter whether it would be "overkill" to have more than one probe.

"The Benghazi Committee is the committee that found this personal email usage and the Benghazi Committee is focused on getting the facts about what happened with regard to Benghazi. The Government Reform Committee has worked on the federal Open Records law, and they're continuing their work on that," he said.

A Boehner spokesman confirmed Monday that "for the time being," only the Benghazi committee is investigating the emails, but reiterated that Chaffetz's panel has some jurisdiction and did not rule out a future probe.

Boehner's office would not confirm whether he specifically told Chaffetz to stand down, but Boehner has gone out of his way to praise Gowdy and his abilities.