Support The Bulwark and subscribe today.
  Join Now

Which Republicans Should Be Put on the January 6 Committee?

The committee is too partisan, moans Kevin McCarthy. Gee, who’s to blame for that?
July 1, 2021
Which Republicans Should Be Put on the January 6 Committee?
Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) speaks after the Republican House caucus voted to remove Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY) of her leadership, at the U.S. Capitol on on May 12, 2021 in Washington, DC. GOP members removed Conference Chair Liz Cheney (R-WY) from her leadership position after she became a target for former President Donald Trump and his followers in the House as she has continually expressed the need for the Republican Party to separate themselves from Trump over his role in the January 6 attack on the Capitol. (Photo by Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images)

Let’s get Kevin McCarthy’s record straight:

  • The House Republican leader supported Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton’s bogus lawsuit last December to cancel votes in swing states that Joe Biden won.
  • McCarthy then voted two times against certifying Electoral College votes for Biden—even after the U.S. Capitol, his workplace, was attacked by a pro-Trump mob.
  • He refused to impeach former President Trump for his role in inciting the riot.
  • Days after Biden was inaugurated, McCarthy zipped to Mar-a-Lago to kowtow to the twice-impeached Trump.
  • McCarthy opposed the creation of a 9/11-style independent, bipartisan commission to investigate the January 6 attack.
  • He booted Liz Cheney from her leadership position because she wouldn’t explicitly mouth Trump’s Big Lie about the election.
  • And this week, he led the GOP opposition against establishing a select committee within the House of Representatives to conduct a probe into those events.

After the House voted yesterday afternoon to create the January 6 committee, McCarthy complained, “It’s all partisan, you can see that.” What. As if he weren’t doing everything within his power to make it so. As if he hadn’t fought the creation of a bipartisan commission. As if the very nature of the insurrection, in which Trump supporters stormed the Capitol, beat police officers, and invaded the Senate chamber all in the name of overturning Biden’s election, weren’t explicitly political.

McCarthy’s argument is patently absurd. But it was good enough to rally the red team around the elephant flag. Even most of the 35 House Republicans who had previously voted for an independent January 6 commission, and most of the 10 Republicans who had voted to impeach Trump adopted McCarthy’s argument. Because this time, the welcoming bubble-bath of partisanship was too much to resist. January 6 is history, see. Primaries and midterms are the future. And so, they easily slipped back into their old ways. There’s just nothing like railing against House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to make Republicans feel warm and fuzzy again.

Rep. John Katko, who had led negotiations for the independent commission, said the new House committee “would be a turbo-charged partisan exercise.” Others who voted for the commission, such as Rep. Tom Rice, said, “I think the whole issue will become more partisan.” Ditto for Reps. Peter Meijer and Jaime Herrera Butler, both of whom had supported impeachment but now worried the “partisan” committee wouldn’t be viewed as credible.

Never mind that their support of it would have helped make it more credible and less partisan. They’re hanging their talking points on the fact the committee wouldn’t have an equal 50-50 split between Rs and Ds. As laid out, Pelosi will appoint eight members of the commission. McCarthy will be given five appointments “in consultation” with Pelosi. Meaning that if his picks are deemed unacceptable, she may veto them. But, given how members like Matt Gaetz and Marjorie Taylor Greene have expressed interest in joining the committee for the express purpose of trolling it, that seems like a prudent—necessary, even—measure.

That uneven split was enough to tank GOP support for the probe, which was the last, best option for any investigation led by Congress. A handful of Cheney and Kinzinger’s colleagues didn’t even bother to be in Washington for the vote. They were in Texas attending an event with Trump at the border.

And, McCarthy won’t even commit to providing any selections. “I haven’t decided,” he says. Which would be perfectly consistent with his record of complaining about the lack of bipartisanship in our politics while doing everything within his power to make our politics ever more partisan.


There are only two Republicans who are obvious choices for membership on the select committee: Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger—the lone two Republicans who voted yesterday to create the committee.

The assignment, to be certain, would be a tough one. Becoming a member of the committee would do nothing but invite more problems into their political lives. It’s not often that members of one party are expected to investigate the actions of a mob incited by their own party’s former president.

It’s not like Cheney and Kinzinger exactly wanted a committee, either. They each said in statements after the vote that they would have preferred an independent commission. Cheney said described a select committee as “our only remaining option” to get “answers” about January 6:

Kinzinger explained his vote similarly:

After yesterday’s vote, Cheney was seen in the House visitors gallery hugging the mother of Brian Sicknick, a Capitol Hill Police Officer who died following the attack. Also in attendance was D.C. Metropolitan Police Officer Michael Fanone, who suffered severe injuries defending the Capitol on January 6 and lobbied members of Congress for a probe.

Fanone expressed disappointment with Republicans. The “elephant in the room,” he punned to reporters, is “that this was a politically motivated event, it was inspired by the leader of the Republican party at the time, President Trump.”

But Kevin McCarthy and every other Republican in league with him can’t put aside the politics, no matter how dangerous. They love partisanship too much.

Amanda Carpenter

Bulwark political columnist Amanda Carpenter is a CNN contributor, author, and former communications director to Sen. Ted Cruz and speechwriter to Sen. Jim DeMint.