House Republicans are sticking beside Kevin McCarthy despite former President Trump’s attacks on the minority leader’s decision to pull GOP members from the Jan. 6 committee.
McCarthy (R-Bakersfield) should have tapped other Republicans for the panel after Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) rejected two of his initial appointments, Trump told Punchbowl News this week. “The Republicans don’t have a voice,” Trump lamented. Last week, he told the far-right podcast host Wayne Allyn Root that “the Republicans should be ashamed of themselves” and called McCarthy’s decision to pull GOP members “bad” and “very, very foolish.”
Trump’s repeated complaints about McCarthy’s handling of the Jan. 6 appointments may stem from his frustration that the committee’s work has seized the nation’s attention. Fifty-eight percent of Americans, including a majority of Republicans and independents, are following news from the committee “very” or “somewhat closely,” according a Quinnipiac poll released this week. Unlike most congressional hearings, during which every member is allotted speaking time, the questioning in each Jan. 6 hearing is led by a single member of the committee. The partisan back-and-forth that characterizes many such hearings is absent, allowing committee members and witnesses to present a coherent, largely uninterrupted story of the attempt to overturn the results of the 2020 election.
Most House Republicans have sought to cast the committee as a partisan charade because it has seven Democratic members and only two Republicans, Adam Kinzinger of Illinois and Liz Cheney of Wyoming. But McCarthy’s caucus blames the House’s top Democrat, not their own leader, for that imbalance.
“That’s Nancy Pelosi’s fault,” Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) said. Because Pelosi “gets to pick and choose, well, I don’t even know if we can call them Republicans — Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger are on there — the committee is not even a real committee,” Greene added.
Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), one of the members whose appointment Pelosi rejected, citing his spreading of disinformation related to the 2020 election, also blamed the speaker.
“She knew this was going to be the outcome” when she didn’t give McCarthy full autonomy to choose the GOP side of the committee, Jordan said. “My guess is … she would always find an excuse to be against something so that she could get the outcome she wanted, which is this political committee with no Republicans on it.”
Rep. Byron Donalds (R-Fla.) sympathized with Trump’s view, but he, too, contended that Pelosi is “the one who broke all aspects of history in this institution” by denying the minority party the right to make its own appointments.
“I understand the president’s frustration,” he said. “This is why we don’t have essentially prosecutors in the jury room just painting a picture without defense.”
Speaking to Root last week, Trump rejected the notion that he had endorsed McCarthy to be the next speaker of the House, cautioning that he only endorsed the Bakersfield Republican for reelection in his district.
But McCarthy’s potential path to the speakership doesn’t yet appear in jeopardy. Republicans, who recently won a special election in a south Texas district long held by Democrats, are expected to win back the majority in the fall, and McCarthy remains a prolific fundraiser.
In a brief interview, Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.) smiled at the mere mention of McCarthy.
“Yeah,” she said jubilantly, “the next speaker of the House. I think leader McCarthy’s doing a great job.”
Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), the chair of the Jan. 6 committee, said Democrats negotiated across the aisle in good faith to create a body that could investigate the insurrection, envisioning an independent commission with an equal number of Democratic and Republican appointees.
“At the last moment, when we had agreed to everything leader McCarthy wanted, he encouraged his members to vote against it,” Thompson recalled, noting that the bill to create the commission passed the House but not the Senate.
Pelosi didn’t think Jordan and Rep. Jim Banks (R-Ind.) were selected “for the betterment of that committee,” Thompson said, so she rejected their appointments but had a “responsibility” to appoint some Republicans — Cheney and Kinzinger — after McCarthy withdrew all of his choices.
Rep. Adam B. Schiff (D-Burbank), a member of the Jan. 6 committee who led Tuesday’s hearing, said the nature of the hearings has shown the wisdom of Pelosi’s refusal to seat “some of the big liars” on the panel.
“I’m not surprised that Donald Trump is having recriminations about his decision and McCarthy’s to oppose the independent commission and to refuse to participate in the select committee,” Schiff said. “It will go down as a historic and strategic blunder by both of them.”