When Congress reconvened following the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol, Democratic Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Republican House Administration Committee ranking member Rodney Davis met in the chamber and agreed that Congress should call for a bipartisan investigation into the unprecedented events of that day.
More than six months later, House lawmakers will launch a riot investigation that has provoked a partisan battle that now threatens any future cooperation between the two parties.
“This is a sham committee that’s just politically driven by Speaker Pelosi,” Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, a California Republican, said Thursday.
Pelosi last week took the unprecedented step of blocking two of McCarthy’s appointees to a 13-member select committee that appears to focus on the role of then-President Donald Trump and other Republicans leading up to and during the attack on the Capitol.
Citing past statements made by Reps. Jim Jordan of Ohio and Jim Banks of Indiana, Pelosi declared that the two Republican lawmakers would destroy the integrity of the committee.
“When statements are ridiculous and fall into the realm of ‘you must be kidding,’ there’s no way that they’re going to be on the committee,” Pelosi said Thursday.
The move to ban Banks (who was chosen to serve as the top GOP lawmaker on the riot panel) and Jordan from participating infuriated Republicans, who historically control appointees to GOP-designated committee seats, and it amped up the already high tension between the two parties.
Earlier this year, Democrats took another unprecedented step and stripped away committee assignments from Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene over social media posts aimed at Democrats that the Georgia Republican made before she was elected to Congress.
Pelosi rattled GOP lawmakers earlier this year by installing metal detectors at the doors to the chamber at the request of fearful Democrats and instituting fines against lawmakers who do not don masks in the chamber.
Republican lawmakers who bypassed the new security measures or were caught without masks have been fined thousands of dollars.
“I didn’t think things could get more partisan in the House than they already were,” a top Republican aide told the Washington Examiner. “But Speaker Pelosi’s decision to remove Republicans from the January 6th Committee just took things to an entirely new level. When Republicans take back the House, expect endless retaliation.”
Republicans are a handful of seats away from reclaiming the majority and believe they can win back the gavel in the 2022 midterm elections.
McCarthy, angered by Pelosi’s move to overrule him on Jordan and Banks, has talked of using his power as House speaker, if the GOP wins the majority next year, to “decide who sits on every committee,” a source familiar with McCarthy’s comments told the Washington Examiner. “Democrats would have no say.”
While McCarthy is likely to cool off before the GOP’s first opportunity to grab hold of the gavel in January 2023, Republican lawmakers would likely be eager to target the committee assignments of prominent Israel critic and Democrat Ilhan Omar, who has written anti-Semitic tweets and recently equated U.S. military action in Afghanistan with the terror groups Hamas and the Taliban.
If Republicans are in the majority, they could act as Democrats did to remove Greene and retaliate by voting to remove Omar from her positions on the Foreign Affairs and Education and the Workforce committees.
Republicans believe Democrats will weaponize the riot panel to taint the GOP ahead of the election.
Democrats have already accused Republicans of aiding the rioters and have tied them to Trump’s claim that the election was rigged in President Joe Biden’s favor, which they say provoked protesters to storm the Capitol.
Democrats say the GOP is essentially endorsing Trump’s claim by refusing to participate in their investigation.
Pelosi took a political jab at the GOP by appointing Wyoming Republican Liz Cheney to one of the eight seats designated for Democrats on the panel. Cheney is an outspoken Trump critic, and she has publicly blamed him for provoking the riot. Cheney is also at odds with McCarthy, who helped oust her from the No. 3 GOP leadership post in May.
Cheney’s appointment allows Democrats to promote the panel and its findings as bipartisan while also instigating discord within the GOP and aggravating their conflicted relationship with Trump.
Pelosi may fan those flames further by adding to the panel Rep. Adam Kinzinger, an Illinois Republican who is also at odds with McCarthy and is an outspoken Trump critic, a Democratic aide told the Washington Examiner.
McCarthy has pulled all five lawmakers he appointed to the committee and announced that the GOP would launch their own investigation of the riot that will examine the lack of security that allowed protesters to overwhelm the police and storm the Capitol while both the House and the Senate were in session certifying the 2020 election results.
McCarthy this week attacked Pelosi as a “lame duck speaker” who is causing permanent damage to the institution by breaking decades of tradition by moving to block his appointments to the committee.
Pelosi has essentially ghosted McCarthy, refusing to acknowledge him by name when reporters asked about the GOP’s alternative investigation into the riot.
“I’m not talking about him,” Pelosi said. “Let’s not waste each other’s time.”
Pelosi blocked Jordan and Banks a day after Banks informed panel Chairman Bennie Thompson, a Mississippi Democrat, that he planned to call as a witness a top Capitol Police union official who has been critical of the building’s security lapses on the day of the riot. Both Banks and Jordan had publicly criticized the committee and the motives behind it.
“They knew that Jim Jordan and I would ask the tough questions that they didn’t want to answer about the systemic breakdown of security at the Capitol on Jan. 6, and ultimately, who’s responsible for that, the speaker of the House,” Banks told Fox News.
McCarthy told reporters earlier this month he believed that the investigation should focus on the Capitol’s lack of preparation for the protesters and Pelosi’s own culpability.
“Why wasn’t the National Guard here?” McCarthy asked at a recent press conference. “There’s a lot of questions why that determination was made.”
Republicans have not announced when they’ll launch their own investigation.
Members of the conservative House Freedom Caucus sent a letter to McCarthy Friday demanding that he use his authority as minority leader to introduce a privileged resolution to remove Pelosi.
“Speaker Pelosi has no interest in representative democracy, let alone protecting institutional norms,” the Freedom Caucus wrote to McCarthy. “Republicans, under your leadership, must show the American people that we will act to protect our ability to represent their interests.”
McCarthy is unlikely to bring up the resolution, and Democrats would easily defeat it if he did.
Pelosi’s spokesman has not yet provided the Washington Examiner with a response to the Freedom Caucus’s demand for her removal.
Author: Susan Ferrechio
Source: Washington Examiner: ‘Expect endless retaliation’: House riot committee provokes partisan war