By Patricia Zengerle
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Republican lawmakers accused the State Department of failing to hold anyone accountable for the Benghazi attacks at a hearing on Wednesday, the first of three this week in the Republican-controlled House of Representatives on the 2012 incident.
"No State Department personnel have been fired or even disciplined. No one has missed a paycheck," said Representative Ed Royce, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, who called the hearing.
But Patrick Kennedy, the undersecretary of state for management and the hearing's only witness, said four State employees were relieved of high-level positions.
Republicans and Democrats have been waging a political battle over Benghazi since militants linked to al Qaeda affiliates attacked U.S. diplomatic outposts and killed Christopher Stevens, the U.S. ambassador to Libya, and three other Americans just over a year ago.
Republicans say the attacks exposed security lapses that must be addressed. Some also accuse Democrats of a cover-up to protect President Barack Obama as he ran for re-election, and then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, considered a leading 2016 Democratic presidential candidate.
Democrats contend the incident was the type of tragedy that happens in a dangerous world. They say House Republicans are spending time and energy on Benghazi while ignoring issues like legislation to prevent a pending government shutdown.
Representative Darrell Issa, a Republican and chairman of the House Oversight committee, said on Fox News on Wednesday he may call Clinton back to Washington to testify on Benghazi.
Issa's committee and a House Armed Services panel will hold separate Benghazi-related hearings on Thursday.
At Wednesday's hearing, several Republicans charged that the administration disregards the safety of U.S. personnel, while some Democrats made their skepticism about the hearing's purpose clear.
"I'd like to ask some questions about Benghazi, the scandal that never was," Florida Democrat Alan Grayson said.
(Reporting by Patricia Zengerle; Editing by Vicki Allen)