Yesterday saw the most recent development in the continuing saga of the January 6 commission. When we last checked in with the commission, Speaker Pelosi had appointed Republican Liz Cheney to the body and Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy was being left to appoint five additional members. Well, yesterday McCarthy made his picks and it wasn’t pretty.
McCarthy’s picks included Jim Banks of Indiana, Jim Jordan of Ohio, Rodney Davis of Illinois, Kelly Armstrong of North Dakota, and freshman Troy Nehls of Texas. You may not recognize many of these names, but two of his appointments show how utterly unseriously McCarthy is taking the House investigation.
While neither Jim Jordan nor Jim Banks spoke at the “Stop the Steal” rally on January 6, both were among the 121 House Republicans who voted to reject the Electoral College vote tallies. Keep in mind that this vote was taken after the attack on the Capitol by President Trump’s supporters.
At least McCarthy didn’t name January 6 rally speakers like Paul Gosar and Mo Brooks to the commission.
Predictably, Speaker Pelosi used the veto power she was granted by the House resolution to refuse to seat Jordan and Banks. Keep in mind that Pelosi is only able to exercise this power because Senate Republicans refused to empower a more evenhanded, bipartisan-backed commission. Rather than killing the investigation entirely, McConnell and the Senate GOP allowed the House to impanel its own investigation, an investigation over which Pelosi has much more control.
Citing “concern about statements made and actions taken by these Members,” Pelosi said in a statement that she was rejecting Jordan and Banks but was “prepared to appoint Representatives Rodney Davis, Kelly Armstrong, and Troy Nehls.”
In response, McCarthy decided to withdraw the other three Republican appointees from the commission. My guess is that what he wanted all along was an excuse not to participate.
"Republicans will not be party to their sham process and will instead pursue our own investigation of the facts,” McCarthy said in a statement.
While there is some speculation that Republicans will open a separate, parallel partisan investigation, McCarthy’s decision to surrender the House investigation to Nancy Pelosi has opened up an opportunity for the speaker to appoint other Trump-critical Republicans to the panel. Politico is reporting today that Pelosi is considering the addition of Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.) and former Rep. Denver Riggleman (R-Va.) to replace McCarthy’s picks.
Essentially what happened is that McCarthy attempted to take his ball and his friends and go home, not realizing that the other team is quite content to continue playing with their own ball. Some of McCarthy’s friends even decided to stay and play.
Quitting the commission is a textbook example of cutting off one’s nose to spite one’s face because Republicans are likely to get the worst-case scenario. Nancy Pelosi’s picks dominate the commission, but the investigation will still be bipartisan so claims that the inquiry is a partisan sham will fall flat… at least outside the GOP. The Republicans on the commission will be committed to uncovered the truth rather than covering for Donald Trump and his allies and attacking the process as they did during impeachment. The resulting serious look at the insurrection and its precipitating events will be good for the country, sunlight is the best disinfectant, but it won’t be good for the Republican Party.
A few days ago, I wrote, “These days, you can’t get 74 percent of Americans to agree on anything” except DACA. Well, make that two things. The other area of agreement is that there is more to the January 6 insurrection than meets the eye. A recent CBS News poll found that 72 percent (74 percent is within the poll’s 2.4-point margin of error) of Americans believe that “there is more to learn” about the attack on the Capitol.
Now, I’m not going to say that most Republicans support what happened on January 6. In fact, the poll shows that 74 percent of Republicans disapprove of the actions of the Capitol rioters. I view that as an encouraging sign.
However, I do think that most Republicans want January 6 to go away. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out why.
Sixty-seven percent of Americans believe that the rioters were trying to overturn the election results and 56 percent call the incident an “insurrection,” but these numbers are halved for Republicans. About half of Republicans consider the insurrection to be “patriotism” and “defending freedom” (which doesn’t square with the belief of some Republicans that Antifa was responsible). The party is badly out of step with the country on the issue.
Across the board, 66 percent believe that democracy and the rule of law are threatened. This number is similar for Republicans, Democrats, and independents, but my guess is that the different groups see different threats. Republicans and Democrats obviously consider each other to be a threat to democracy, but I’ll wager that most independents are probably casting a wary eye at the GOP after January 6 (and not to mention after four years of Trump).
To the mistrust and resentment being heaped upon the Republican Party n general for the actions of a small number of its members on January 6, we must add the fact that no small number of elected Republicans showed support for the “Stop the Steal” movement between Election Day and January 6. Even after the attack on the Capitol, more than half of congressional Republicans voted to reject the outcome of the Electoral College. Most have never expressed remorse or recanted these positions. It’s no wonder that Republicans want to forget January 6.
And it’s no wonder that Democrats won’t let them. Two Republican scalps have already been taken since November 3. Senators David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler were the odds-on favorites in the Georgia runoff after winning pluralities in the general election. Nevertheless, President Trump’s stolen election claims became an albatross around their necks and the pair eventually went down to defeat.
Democrats hope to repeat this pattern and Republican House incumbents constitute a target-rich environment for challengers. This s especially true since Donald Trump and his base prevent vulnerable incumbents from tacking to the center.
Whether you are a Republican or not, it should be apparent that Kevin McCarthy’s handling of the January 6 commission has been an epic self-own. First, the Republican leadership kills the bipartisan commission, which enables Pelosi to create a House alternative over which she can exercise control. Then, McCarthy fires Liz Cheney from her leadership position, which frees her to speak out even more. Next, Pelosi taps Cheney to be a token principled Republican on the commission. Then McCarthy ends up removing all other Republican voices from the body, which enables Pelosi to add more anti-Trump Republicans. This ensures not only that the outcome will be unfavorable to Republicans but that there will be no distracting antics as there were during President Trump’s impeachment hearings.
Whether you support or oppose the commission, McCarthy has made a hash of things. For those who support the commission, he is attempting to obfuscate and stonewall the investigation into a very dark day in American history. If you oppose the commission, he not only failed to block the investigation, he has managed to put it entirely into Nancy Pelosi’s hands where Republican leaders will have no say in the final product. On either basis, McCarthy has proven himself incompetent and unfit to lead.
I support the January 6 commission. I would have preferred a bipartisan (or better yet, a nonpartisan) commission, but I’ll take what I can get. We need an investigation that will pull threads and follow them to see where they lead, even if the outcome isn’t necessarily a criminal conviction. We need to know whether elements of the government were involved in the attack and, if so, what that involvement entailed and how high up the involvement went.
You can count me among those Americans who believe that our democracy is threatened by the elements of the Republican Party that carried out the January 6 insurrection. These people shouldn’t be allowed to hide behind a veneer of patriotism and partisanship. They should be exposed and shamed for their actions.
Even if public shaming is the only justice that the instigators ever receive for their roles in fomenting the attack on the Constitution and the credibility of our most basic institution, free and fair elections, that small measure of justice should be pursued with vigor. Voters should be reminded every time the architects of January 6 stand for election that they cannot be trusted with power.
Never forget January 6 and never allow it to be repeated. And when the House investigation spills the ugly details of that day, Republicans should remember that Kevin McCarthy made it possible.
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