House Republicans last week approved resolutions to bolster their investigations of the Sept. 11, 2012 attacks in Benghazi, Libya, and IRS targeting of conservative groups that they claim have been stonewalled by the White House.

Most House Democrats opposed the measures claiming the GOP effort was a political ploy to appeal to its conservative base and raise campaign cash for this year’s mid-term elections and beyond.

Benghazi investigation

The House voted, 232-186, to establish a select committee that will examine the attack that killed U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans.

"My colleagues on the other side of the aisle want Americans to believe that this investigation is motivated by politics. No. This investigation would not be necessary had the Obama administration come clean," said House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va.

Rep. William Lacy Clay, D-Mo., said that legitimate oversight questions about Benghazi have been explored in exhaustive detail – noting more than 25,000 documents have been produced and dozens of witnesses interviewed in seven investigations so far.

"This is not about discovering new facts," he said. "This is about creating a partisan vehicle to exploit this tragedy to raise money and to provide the majority’s echo chamber on cable TV and talk radio red meat rhetoric."

Reps. Tom Cotton, R-Dardanelle, Tim Griffin, R-Little Rock, and Steve Womack, R-Rogers, voted to establish the committee. Rep. Rick Crawford, R-Jonesboro, did not vote.

IRS scandal

The House also voted to hold former Internal Revenue Service official Lois Lerner in contempt of Congress and called on Attorney General Eric Holder to appoint a special counsel to investigate IRS targeting of conservative nonprofit groups.

Lerner, the former director of the Exempt Organizations office in Cincinnati, Ohio, disclosed a year ago – at a law conference – that conservative groups seeking tax-exempt status had been targeted for extra review.

After claiming no wrongdoing, Lerner refused to answer questions from the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, invoking her Fifth Amendment right not to testify.

Democrats argued against the resolutions. They said Lerner had properly exercised her Fifth Amendment right and that a special counsel is not needed because the Justice Department has an active investigation.

Republicans claimed the Justice Department investigation is a charade and that Lerner waived her rights and should be compelled to testify.

The House voted, 250-168, to encourage Holder to name a special counsel.

Cotton and Womack voted in favor. Crawford and Griffin did not vote.

The House voted, 231-187, to hold Lerner in contempt.

Cotton and Womack voted in favor. Crawford and Griffin did not vote.

R&D tax credit

The House approved legislation to simplify – and make permanent - the research and development tax credit that has been available to businesses since 1981.

Republican proponents noted that the tax credit has received strong bipartisan support in yearly votes to reauthorize it. They also said the simplified tax credit would have a positive economic impact that would lead to more jobs.

Democrat opponents argued that Republicans had not offered a way to pay for the tax credit, which would mean more government borrowing.

The bill was approved, 274-131.

Cotton, Griffin and Womack voted in favor. Crawford did not vote.

Electrify Africa

A resolution urging more action from the U.S. government to bring reliable electricity to people living in sub-Saharan Africa passed the House, 297-117.

Proponents said the bill would encourage private investment in developing electric power for the nearly 70 percent of sub-Saharan Africans that lack a reliable source.

Opponents argued against a provision in the bill to reauthorize the Overseas Private Investment Corporation for three years. They said OPIC provides risk insurance, loan guarantees and direct loans to companies for dubious overseas investments.

"Recent beneficiaries include the Ritz-Carlton in Istanbul; Citibank branches in Pakistan, Jordan, and Egypt; and a SunEdison solar farm in South Africa," said Rep. Tom McClintock, R-Calif.

Rep. Ed Royce, R-Calif., said the bill includes significant reforms to OPIC and redirects its focus to supporting development of electric power plants that will have "a major impact on the long-term growth" of Africa.

Griffin voted for the bill. Cotton and Womack opposed it. Crawford did not vote.