Pelosi and McCarthy Joust Over GOP Participation in January 6 Panel

Pelosi and her would-be successor as speaker, Kevin McCarthy. Photo-Illustration: Intelligencer. Photos: Getty Images

You had to figure it would wind up like this. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy have been conducting a chess game over Republican participation in the January 6 Select Committee, which Pelosi created after Republicans rejected efforts to form an independent panel to investigate the Capitol riot. Last month Pelosi announced the committee would be composed of 13 members: eight appointed by her and five selected by McCarthy (subject to her approval). To ensure there would be Republican representation (and to annoy McCarthy), Pelosi then said one of her eight slots would be filled by Republican heretic Liz Cheney, who was recently defenestrated from her House leadership position because she unrepentantly voted for Donald Trump’s second impeachment.

McCarthy privately warned Republicans not to accept any appointments directly from Pelosi, and after warding off bids to be on the panel from MAGA firebugs like Lauren Boebert, Matt Gaetz, and Marjorie Taylor Greene, he duly appointed five members. Three were largely unobjectionable back-benchers (Kelley Armstrong of North Dakota, Rodney Davis of Illinois, and Troy Nehls of Texas). But two were clearly appointed to annoy Pelosi right back: House Freedom Caucus founder and anti-impeachment demagogue Jim Jordan of Ohio, and House Study Committee chairman and prophet of a “populist” right-wing future Jim Banks of Indiana.

Both of these gents are from the aggressively Trumpy wing of their party. Both voted against certifying Biden’s victory on January 6. And both showed every indication that they would use the select committee not to investigate the insurrection, but to direct the inquiry elsewhere. Jordan wants to blame Democrats for allegedly encouraging violence during last summer’s racial-justice protests. And Banks called the whole investigation a partisan exercise intended to “malign conservatives.” They would have been about as useful to the inquest as ants at a picnic.

So as McCarthy probably intended, Pelosi rejected those two suggested appointments, and the Republican yanked all five in a fit of feigned pique.

This last set of maneuvers probably limits House Republican representation on the select committee to Cheney, but it does keep its deliberations from descending into the partisan chaos that accompanied both Trump impeachment deliberations. Meanwhile, McCarthy gets to pretend Pelosi is interested in only partisan propaganda, not a real investigation. Both sides get their way, in the only kind of bipartisanship currently in vogue in Washington.

Pelosi, McCarthy Joust Over Republicans on January 6 Panel