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Republicans Vow to Keep Raising Jan. 6 Questions, Despite Committee Quarrels

July 23, 2021 by Dan McCue
Rep. Rodney Davis during a recent news conference.

WASHINGTON – As a select committee prepares to open its investigation Tuesday into the events leading up to and during the Jan. 6 insurrection on Capitol Hill, a trio of House Republicans wonder what might have been.

Everyone expected some controversy when House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, after some delay, announced his five picks for the committee. 

After all, the two most circulated names for the minority slots, Rep. Jim Banks, of Indiana, and Rep. Jim Jordan, of Ohio, were outspoken allies of former President Donald Trump, and both of them voted to overturn the election results in the hours after the siege.

And given that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi had the authority to approve or reject all members, per committee rules, it was inevitable that she would at least try to reject them, which she did.

“The unprecedented nature of Jan. 6 demands this unprecedented decision,” she said last week.

“With respect for the integrity of the investigation, with an insistence on the truth and with concern about statements made and actions taken by these members, I must reject the recommendations of Reps. Banks and Jordan to the select committee,” Pelosi said in a statement.

But the move galvanized the House Republicans. 

For instance, McCarthy immediately declared that Pelosi’s handling of the committee would damage the institutions of Congress.

“Unless Speaker Pelosi reverses course and seats all five Republican nominees, Republicans will not be party to their sham process and will instead pursue our own investigation of the facts,” McCarthy said.

That left his remaining nominees, Rodney Davis of Illinois, Kelly Armstrong of North Dakota and freshman Troy Nehls of Texas, wondering what might have been.

Nominees See Failure of Leadership in Siege

On the day McCarthy picked him for the committee, Armstrong said “a failure of leadership at multiple levels” resulted in the security breach at the Capitol, and “Americans deserve to know the exact nature of the failures.”

Rep. Kelly Armstrong.

“We need to make sure that law enforcement, staff, members, press, and everyone else who visits the Capitol grounds are never placed in that situation ever again,” he said, expressing a sentiment he shared with Davis and Nehls.

“Our nation needs to heal, find the truth, and restore confidence in our institutions. Efforts to score partisan points will do nothing to make the people who work here safer and will further entrench our divisions,” he said, adding he was confident the panel would conduct a “fact-based” investigation.

Nehls, a former sheriff and military officer, was similarly ready to get down to business.

“When I was chosen by Leader McCarthy to serve on this select committee, I assured him … I would take the 30 years of law enforcement experience I have and my eight years as sheriff to uncover exactly what took place on Jan. 6,” he said at a press conference after the panel blew up.

“I had prepared a binder of what I thought were relevant materials on what happened at the Capitol. I had examined the Senate report on the incident. And I had read witness statements. … And I was truly alarmed. I really wanted to get to the truth. Unfortunately, Speaker Pelosi has shown she’s more interested in playing politics,” Nehls said.

Hope for Bipartisan, Bicameral Committee Quashed

Rep. Rodney Davis, R- Ill. recalled that on the night of Jan. 6, when Congress finally reconvened to take the certification of 2020 election results from the states, he had a brief conversation with Pelosi on the dais.

“She brought up a bipartisan bicameral commission to me at that time,” Davis said during a recent press conference. “I introduced a bill to create a bipartisan bicameral commission. Then we had some questions about how it would be implemented, and Speaker Pelosi decided that instead of creating an independent panel, she’d put forth her own select committee and undertake what we now know [will be] a completely partisan process.

 “It’s very disappointing,” Davis said.

“I think all of us were looking forward to the first hearing next week, where we would be able to get answers to some of the questions that have already been raised by McCarthy, Jim Banks and Jim Jordan.”

Rep. Troy Nehls

Among the key questions that need to be asked, Davis said, is whether the Capitol and those who work inside it are in any better position today, security-wise, than they were on Jan. 6.

The reports that have already been compiled about the siege suggest the Capitol Police lacked the equipment, the training, the preparation and the backup adequate to deal with the riot that ensued that afternoon.

“Why?” asked Davis rhetorically. “And what have we done? What has the speaker done? And more importantly, what has she asked the Capitol Police Board, made up of her appointees, done to address security at the Capitol Complex?

“It’s disappointing to see that our Capitol Police officers are still not in a position to make sure another Jan. 6 can’t happen again,” Davis continued. “She needs to answer the questions. We were hoping to get those answers. Unfortunately we won’t be able to …”

“To strike Jim Banks and Jim Jordan from this committee is just not acceptable,” Armstrong said. “And I think it’s important to recognize that every time Speaker Pelosi uses the word unprecedented, it happens to consolidate absolute power in the speaker’s office.

“It was unprecedented to put metal detectors on the floor of the house. It was unprecedented to have a proxy voting, and it is … unprecedented for the majority leader to strike minority members from a committee,” he said. 

“I don’t think this committee is about the last election. I don’t even think this committee is about the next election. It’s about the speaker’s office maintaining an absolute iron grip on her conference in the people’s house for the next 18 months. 

“I’m concerned that after 200 years of precedent we’re completely altering how things are done in the people’s House, but you know what else, I’d be concerned if I was a majority member right now, because the math and their policies are going to help us take back the majority in two years, and these things never go back to the way they were once they been changed. So we need to be calling this out.

“Every member of the U.S. House of Representatives is elected by the voters in their district, and the minority in the chamber has a right to put the people on the committees that they want .. and we shouldn’t be changing that for this committee or any other.”

GOP Leader Vows Own Inquiry

McCarthy has said unless Pelosi reverses course and seats all five GOP nominees, “Republicans will not be party to their sham process and will instead pursue our own investigation of the facts.” 

It is unclear how McCarthy would lead a separate investigation, because the minority does not have the power to set up committees. 

Undeterred, he said the committee that will assemble at the Cannon House Office Building Tuesday morning has lost “all legitimacy.”

Nehls, for one, is ready for the next chapter, whatever it may be.

“I stand with McCarthy, and my other [Republican] colleagues on this committee,” he said. “I assured the leader that I will continue to play a role, and do everything I can to make sure that what took place on Jan. 6 can never ever happen again. I will remain strong in that commitment.”

“We are going to continue to ask questions,” Davis said. “And frankly, there are many unanswered questions about why this capital was so unprepared.” 

There was one Republican this week who wasn’t buying into McCarthy’s bluster, and that was Rep. Liz Cheney, the lone Republican Pelosi appointed to the Jan. 6 Committee.

“The rhetoric that we have heard from the minority leader is disingenuous,” Cheney said during a press conference outside the Capitol.

“The attack on this building on Jan. 6 was the worst attack on this Capitol since 1814. It was an attack on our Constitution. We supported what would have been the very best option, which was a bipartisan independent commission. 

“The minority leader opposed that, he lobbied against it in the Senate, and the Senate blocked it. The American people deserve to know what happened, the people who did this must be held accountable,” she continued. “There must be an investigation that is nonpartisan, that is sober, that is serious, that gets to the facts wherever they may lead. And at every opportunity, the minority leader has attempted to prevent the American people from understanding what happened – to block this investigation. 

“The speaker objected to two Republican members. She accepted three others. She objected to two, one of whom may well be a material witness to events that led to that day – that led to Jan. 6. The other, who disqualified himself by his comments in particular over the last 24 hours demonstrating that he is not taking this seriously. He is not dealing with the facts of this investigation, but rather viewed it as a political platform,” Cheney said. 

“This investigation must go forward. The idea that anybody would be playing politics with an attack on the United States Capitol is despicable and is disgraceful, and I am absolutely dedicated and committed to making sure that this investigation holds those accountable who did this and ensures that it never happens again. And the American people deserve that, and that is what we are going to do.” 

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