ANALYSIS — House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy on Thursday recounted an effort on Jan. 12, 2021, just six days after the violent Capitol attack, in which Republicans sought to investigate what caused the riot. But the offering was mostly performative.
The California Republican cited a measure, HR 275, to create a “National Commission on the Domestic Terrorist Attack Upon the United States Capitol.” It would have set up a commission, split evenly between five Democrats and five Republicans, to “examine and report upon the facts and causes relating to the domestic terrorist attack of January 6, 2021, which occurred at the United States Capitol Complex.”
A common procedural vote blocked consideration of that commission, which was offered as a previous question, rather than a vote on the substance of the measure that McCarthy cited.
“When House Republicans proposed investigating these facts, as you’ll remember on January 12th, we put it to the floor and every single Democrat voted no,” McCarthy said.
Notably, the bill McCarthy referred to describes the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol riot as a “domestic terrorist attack.” On Jan. 13, McCarthy voted against impeaching former President Donald Trump for his role in inciting an insurrection but said Trump bore responsibility for the riot and floated a censure, which is a floor-level sanction. He quickly backtracked on that stance.
McCarthy subsequently led House Republicans in voting against a measure to create an independent commission to investigate the Jan. 6 Capitol attack that was authored by Reps. John Katko, R-N.Y., and Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., known as HR 3233. That commission’s roster would have had no current politicians and would have been equally split between Republicans and Democrats, with both sides getting a say on which subpoenas would have been issued. In May 2021, only 35 Republicans voted for it, including Rep. Rodney Davis, R-Ill., the sponsor of the bill McCarthy referenced.
When asked about GOP leadership’s push against the Katko-Thompson compromise, McCarthy again touted his support for HR 275.
“On January 12th, we offered the commission and put it on the floor, and every single Democrat voted against it,” McCarthy said, adding that Speaker Nancy “Pelosi wouldn’t bring it up so we sent her a letter,” and that he got a response three months later.
He said when Pelosi began engaging with him, her desired scope was too narrow and didn’t include a wide enough lens to investigate incidents such as the 2017 congressional baseball shooting that targeted Republican members and civil unrest in the summer of 2020. Katko, who was instrumental in writing the bill, said commissioners would have discretion to investigate incidents outside of Jan. 6.
When hopes of the commission died in the Senate, Pelosi moved forward with the select committee that will hold a much-anticipated public hearing on Thursday evening. Pelosi ultimately denied two of McCarthy’s five GOP selections for the select committee: Reps. Jim Jordan of Ohio and Jim Banks of Indiana, who was also a co-sponsor of the GOP commission measure. Instead, Pelosi intended to appoint Davis, Rep. Troy Nehls of Texas and Rep. Kelly Armstrong of North Dakota.
McCarthy then pulled all five.
“So, no, we didn’t participate with her political scam,” McCarthy said Thursday of Pelosi. “We offered it six days after Jan. 6th, a 9/11 committee. Write it the way it happened.”
The speaker later added Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., the panel’s vice chair, and Rep. Adam Kinzinger of Illinois, who is not seeking another term after sharply criticizing Trump and some of his fellow Republicans. Both are expected to play big roles in the Thursday prime-time hearing.
“In fact, it is the most political and least legitimate committee in American history,” McCarthy said, adding that it has used congressional subpoenas to attack Republicans, violated due process and infringed on the political speech of private citizens.
Davis, the ranking member on the House Administration Committee, announced that, should the GOP win back the House majority in November, he will launch “a full investigation into Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the Select Committee’s circus.” He sent a records-preservation request to Thompson, the chairman of the Jan. 6 select committee.
Davis is facing a primary challenge from Trump-backed Rep. Mary Miller, R-Ill.