McCarthy Says He’d Testify Before A Jan. 6 Commission While Spinning Loss On Bill

WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 21: House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) speaks during his weekly press conference on January 21, 2021 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
May 20, 2021 2:27 p.m.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) affirmed Thursday that he would testify before a January 6 commission — after doing all he could to make sure one never happens.

“Sure,” he said flippantly when asked if he’d hypothetically testify, quickly moving on to the next question.

While he cut off reporters’ questions fairly quickly, he did do some minor spin on Wednesday’s embarrassing floor vote. Despite his stated opposition and last-minute whipping against a bipartisan bill to set up the January 6 commission, 35 Republicans voted for it. For context in this hyper-partisan time, that’s more than three times the number who voted to impeach former President Donald Trump for catalyzing that same attack.

“I thought it would probably be higher,” McCarthy said of the defectors. 

He went on to bash the “Pelosi commission,” an attempt to rebrand it away from its true nature — a deal made by House Homeland Security committee chair Bennie Thompson (D-MS) and ranking member John Katko (R-NY), the latter of whom McCarthy reportedly deputized to conduct the negotiations in the first place. McCarthy went public with his opposition to the bill on Tuesday, leaving Katko out to dry.

Former President Donald Trump weighed in on the Republican jailbreak on Thursday.

“See, 35 wayward Republicans—they just can’t help themselves,” he said in a statement. “We have much better policy and are much better for the Country, but the Democrats stick together, the Republicans don’t. They don’t have the Romney’s, Little Ben Sasse’s, and Cheney’s of the world.”

Republicans, seeking reasons to oppose a commission very similar to one some of them co-sponsored back in January, have offered up a battery of excuses ranging from the nonsensical to the calculated. 

As McCarthy alluded to during his presser, many have seized on the staff hiring clause of the bill to argue that it’s slanted against the Republican appointees. In reality, the language in the bill is virtually the same as that in the 9/11 commission.

Some, particularly GOP Senators, are more candidly admitting that they don’t want the commission to overrun its end of year deadline and crash into the midterm season, reminding voters of their party’s culpability while they decide how to vote.

The bill seems destined to die in the Senate after Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) came out against it on Wednesday. Since then, members who previously characterized themselves as open to the commission have changed their minds.

Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC) made the likelihood of Senate passage even more remote Thursday.

“I don’t believe establishing a new commission is necessary or wise,” he said, pointing to the disparate congressional committee investigations.

Burr was one of the seven Republicans to vote for Trump’s second impeachment. Without him, the search to find 10 Republican votes gets even harder. 

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) Thursday declined to comment on alternate options — like a select committee, or a commission established by the executive branch — even while the commission seems dead on arrival in the Senate. She also wouldn’t say how long she’ll let the bipartisan approach play out before giving up on Republicans and going it alone.

“What we’ve said we want is a bipartisan commission,” she said at her weekly press conference. “I don’t want to weaken that position.”

“I don’t think what we’ve heard from the Senate is so bad compared to what we usually hear from the Senate,” she added.

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