House Republican leaders won’t say whether they will support — or even participate in — a proposed select committee to investigate the Jan. 6 breach of the Capitol.
Louisiana Rep. Steve Scalise, the No. 2 Republican, demurred Tuesday when asked if Republicans would sit on the panel, telling reporters at a news conference that “I can’t answer that question.” Asked whether any Republicans will vote for the resolution to create the committee, he said “we’ll see how the vote goes.”
That vote is expected Wednesday.
House GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy also declined to answer questions about Republicans' role on the panel, saying only that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi “has never talked to me about it.”
The Republican reticence comes as McCarthy is facing pressure to take the investigation seriously from police officers who responded to the attack, Democrats and even some of his fellow Republicans. The resolution introduced by Pelosi on Monday would have eight members on the committee appointed by Pelosi and five appointed “after consultation” with McCarthy — meaning Pelosi could potentially have veto power over every appointment to the panel.
Republican participation in the investigation, and the appointments to the panel, could help determine whether the committee becomes a bipartisan effort or instead a hotbed of division. Two Senate committees issued a bipartisan report with security recommendations earlier this month, but it did not examine the origins of the siege, leaving many unanswered questions about the events of the day.
Hundreds of people broke into the building on Jan. 6, interrupting the certification of President Joe Biden’s victory and pushing past police. Two of the officers who responded, Metropolitan Police Officer Michael Fanone and Capitol Police Officer Harry Dunn, met with McCarthy on Friday and asked him to take the House investigation seriously.
Fanone, who has described being dragged down the Capitol steps by participants who shocked him with a stun gun and beat him, said he asked McCarthy for a commitment not to put “the wrong people” on the panel; some in the GOP have downplayed the Jan. 6 breach. Fanone said McCarthy told him he would take his request seriously.
Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, has also publicly pressured McCarthy. “I hope he appoints people who are seen as being credible,” he said Sunday on CNN.
Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan, a close Trump ally, said he doesn't know what McCarthy is going to do but it's possible Republicans will just choose not to be involved.
“I know I've got real concerns, I know he does, that this is all just political, and that this is impeachment three against President Trump," Jordan said.
Trump was twice impeached by the House and twice acquitted by the Senate, the second time over telling his supporters just before the insurrection to “fight like hell” to overturn his defeat to Biden. Critics of Trump contended his words whipped up supporters and encouraged the events at the Capitol, something Trump supporters have vigorously challenged.
Pelosi is moving to form the committee after Senate Republicans blocked an independent, bipartisan panel that would have been modeled after the commission that investigated the 9/11 terrorist attacks. She said it was her preference to have an independent panel lead the inquiry, but Congress could not wait any longer to begin a deeper look at the breach.
A Pelosi aide said the speaker is considering including a Republican among her appointments to the select panel, which would bring the likely partisan split to 7-6. The aide was granted anonymity to discuss her thinking.
It's unclear whom Pelosi might appoint, but at least one Republican has appeared open to the opportunity — Illinois Rep. Adam Kinzinger, a frequent Trump critic who was one of 10 Republicans who voted to impeach the former president after Jan. 6. Maura Gillespie, a spokeswoman for Kinzinger, said he does not want the investigation to turn political, but “that being said, our party blocked that first opportunity and now we need answers.”
Pelosi has not yet said who will lead the panel, but one possibility is House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Bennie Thompson, D-Miss. Thompson said Tuesday that it would be an “honor” to serve as chairman and that it's Pelosi's call if she wants to have a say on the Republican members.
“They had an opportunity to really engage,” Thompson said of Republicans who voted against the bipartisan commission. “And they didn't. So they can't now come back and say, ‘Oh, that’s not fair.'"
Many Republicans have expressed concerns about a partisan probe, since majority Democrats are likely to investigate Trump’s role in the siege and the role many on the left say right-wing groups played in it.. Almost three dozen House Republicans voted last month for the legislation to create an independent commission, which would have had an even partisan split among members. Seven Republicans in the Senate have also supported moving forward on that bill, but that was short of the 10 Senate Republicans who would be necessary to pass it.
Many Republicans have made clear that they want to move on from the Jan. 6 attack, brushing aside the many unanswered questions, including how the government and law enforcement missed intelligence leading up to the event.
And some Republicans have gone further, with Rep. Andrew Clyde of Georgia suggesting video of the rioters looked like a “tourist visit” and Rep. Paul Gosar of Arizona insisting that a Trump supporter named Ashli Babbitt, who was shot and killed that day while trying to break into the House chamber, was “executed.”
Others have defended the protesters as they have been charged with federal crimes.
In their meeting with McCarthy, Fanone and Dunn asked the GOP leader to publicly denounce the comments downplaying the violence as well as 21 Republicans who recently voted against giving medals of honor to the U.S. Capitol Police and the Metropolitan Police to thank them for their service. They said McCarthy, who voted for the measure, told them he would deal with those members privately.
Seven people died during and after the rioting, including Babbitt and three other Trump supporters who suffered medical emergencies. Two police officers died by suicide in the days that followed, and a third officer, Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick, collapsed and later died after engaging with the protesters. A medical examiner later determined he died of natural causes.
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