Recriminations and rancor are the order of the day on Capitol Hill as lawmakers feud over the potential members of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s (R-CA) committee on the January 6 riots. In keeping with historical precedent, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) presented a list of five Republican representatives to join the inquiry. Following Pelosi’s recent rejection of two proposed members, McCarthy launched a “privileged House resolution” in order to force his California counterpart to accept all of his recommendations.
The move ultimately failed with 218-197 voting to set the resolution aside. Representatives Liz Cheney (R-WY) and Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) – who were handpicked by Pelosi for the committee – sided with the Democrats. So, where does this leave the supposedly bipartisan investigation?
No Conflict Resolution
The resolution stated that Nancy Pelosi’s decision to deny spots on the committee to Reps. Jim Banks (R-IN) and Jim Jordan (R-OH) was not in keeping with congressional tradition. Her action was described as “unprecedented,” with the document claiming that her refusal to seat the members “directly harms the legitimacy, credibility, and integrity of the proceedings of the Select Committee.”
Pelosi herself agreed that her move was unusual, saying, “the unprecedented nature of January 6th demands this unprecedented decision.” She further argued that the inclusion of Banks and Jordan would undercut the “integrity” of the committee. However, critics within the GOP have pointed out that excluding differing voices makes the investigation less of a probe and more of a rubber-stamping board.
That the two House members who bucked their party to side with Democrats – Cheney and Kinzinger – are both fervent anti-Trumpers, does not – in the opinion of Republicans – make for a bipartisan grouping. Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA), the House GOP whip, said, “Speaker Pelosi has removed any credibility that [the committee] has, regardless of who was on it, because she removed people who were going to be asking fair and tough questions to try to get at the facts. And obviously, Speaker Pelosi doesn’t want to get at the facts; she wants to create a political narrative.”
In light of Nancy Pelosi’s “heavy-handed” approach, the three other GOP members proposed by McCarthy voted alongside their party leader in the House resolution, despite their acceptance into the committee.
A Matter of Escalation
Reports suggest that McCarthy is being asked to make the highly symbolic gesture of pushing for a “motion to vacate the speaker’s chair,” on the heels of his comment that Pelosi is “a lame-duck speaker.” Although the move is doomed to failure due to House numbers, it would represent a further breakdown in relations between the two parties. Tennessee Rep. Mark Green (R) offered a sobering assessment; he said, “McCarthy has appropriately had enough. All of us had.”
The reality of the situation is that with Nancy Pelosi’s decision to go against precedent and reject the representatives put forward, plus McCarthy’s responses, relations are extremely low. That this animosity will bleed into other areas of cooperation seems almost inevitable. Any hopes that lawmakers may have had of working together on a bipartisan basis are likely dashed – unless Democrats consider support from only Cheney and Kinzinger as bipartisan.
What Goes Up…
Though this new predicament may not matter too much for a party in control of the White House and both chambers of Congress, two aspects are worthy of note. First, the partisan rancor may well bleed through to the Senate, where Republicans could seek to exploit the even divide and the unwillingness of Democrat Senators Joe Manchin (WV) and Kyrsten Sinema (AZ) to go along with every party line. And perhaps more importantly, the Democrat prospects for holding the majority in the House after the 2022 midterms look slim. Whatever perceived affronts are doled out now by Joe Biden’s party are likely to be returned two-fold if the balance of power shifts.
Lawmakers would do well to remember the adage oft attributed to Jimmy Durante: “Never snub people on your way up. Because you meet the same people on your way down.”
Read more from Mark Angelides.