House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), flanked by his equally stony-faced picks for the Jan. 6 committee, railed at top volume against the “lame duck” Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) for barring Reps. Jim Jordan (R-OH) and Jim Banks (R-IN) from serving.
Both Jordan and Banks — and Rep. Troy Nehls (R-TX), another McCarthy pick Pelosi said she’d allow — voted against certifying the Electoral College vote in the aftermath of the insurrection. Pelosi also okayed Reps. Kelly Armstrong (R-ND) and Rodney Davis (R-IL).
McCarthy now insists that if all of his picks can’t serve, none of them will. Pelosi largely shrugged at the threat, pointing out that Rep. Liz Cheney’s (R-WY) participation makes the committee bipartisan either way.
In fire and brimstone intonations, McCarthy and his appointees decried Pelosi for ruining the institution of the House, for committing an unprecedented suppression of minority rights.
“We will do our job though,” a breathless McCarthy said, adding that Republicans (minus Cheney, presumably) will conduct their own investigation. “We asked to do our job, we want to do our job.”
But they really don’t. Pelosi’s first choice for investigating the insurrection was a bipartisan commission, enshrined in legislation written by a House Democratic and Republican team, that would have given both parties equal commission spots. It also would have required at least one Republican appointee to sign off on all subpoenas, giving the minority party enormous power over the commission’s reach.
McCarthy urged his members to vote against it. In the other chamber, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) reportedly put his personal relationships with his members up as collateral to pressure them into voting against the commission.
That did not stop the phalanx of grim-faced men in ties from cursing the Speaker’s name Wednesday in their indignation that Banks and Jordan, the latter particularly famous for derailing hearings with Fox News talking points, would be barred from the committee.
“What is the Speaker afraid of?” Banks, a veteran, as we were reminded many times over, asked darkly. “I’ll leave you with that.”
Perhaps what Pelosi was afraid of stepped up next, as the typically shirt-sleeved Jordan rattled off at an auctioneer-cadence the various random topics that wouldn’t be investigated to make room for the Jan. 6 probe.
They included crime rates, border crossings, the price of milk, eggs, gas, airline tickets — “everything!” the winded Jordan trailed off.
Rep. Troy Nehls (R-TX), who became “Sheriff” Nehls during the press conference as law enforcement experience took on a greater cachet, indignantly pointed out that he had already made a binder in preparation for the hearings, waving it around inches from a wary McCarthy’s face.
At various times during the event, McCarthy held the 9/11 commission up as an exemplar because its scope was narrow enough to find an answer, and because it was broad enough to include the events leading up to the attack. It’s a tough needle to thread because McCarthy argued both sides with the independent commission too, wanting to include the Black Lives Matter protests as an assured poison pill for Democrats, but not wanting to include any investigation into the lead-up that could be damaging to former President Donald Trump.
Ultimately, the very shouty press conference was an attempt to paint the committee as an unprecedentedly partisan charade — again. McCarthy did the same thing with the bipartisan commission established by one of his own members, calling the effort “marred” by “political misdirections.”
Republicans have made it fairly clear that they have no interest in participating in an investigation of Jan. 6 beyond the security breakdowns of the insurrection itself. Anything more extensive would surely place culpability with Trump for fomenting the attack, and could bring to light damning actions of his or other Republicans. It’s a personal pitfall for McCarthy specifically, who said Wednesday that his call with Trump during the insurrection does not fall into the category of questions Republicans want to explore.
As Armstrong made clear, Republicans are being guided by one priority here — winning 2022 elections. And resurrecting a bloody attack on the nation’s Capital, sparked by GOP disinformation, right around election time, as part of a probe that the leader of their party is adamantly against, is simply not seen as a political boon.
“I’d be concerned if I was a majority member right now,” Armstrong said, threatening that a GOP speaker could one day wield the same crushing power Pelosi does now. “Because the map, the math and their policies are gonna help us take back the majority in two years.”