You do you, Kevin McCarthy.
Just keep on being the partisan doofus and spineless House minority leader Americans know and mostly don’t like. If there’s any justice, you’ll remain minority leader and never climb another political rung. (Though, given today’s Supreme Court rulings, justice is in short supply right now, but I digress.)
Early today came reports that McCarthy threatened to strip GOP members of all committee assignments if they agreed to serve on the 13-member House Select Committee to investigate the January 6 insurrection, which was established Wednesday essentially along partisan lines. Only Representatives Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger backed it.
“Who gives a shit?” Kinzinger reportedly replied to McCarthy’s “threat.”
Cheney essentially said the same. Not long after came news that Pelosi had appointed her eight members—the legislation establishes that five will be appointed by McCarthy, though subject to Pelosi’s consultation—and Cheney is among them.
Those eight appointments—which also include the select committee chair, Bennie Thompson, plus Representatives Jamie Raskin, Elaine Luria, Adam Schiff, Stephanie Murphy, Zoe Lofgren, and Pete Aguilar—give Pelosi a quorum that lets the committee conduct business, whatever McCarthy ultimately decides. Shortly after, Cheney tweeted that she accepted the post: “I’m honored to serve on the January 6th select committee. Our oath to the Constitution must be above partisan politics.”
In a super-brief press briefing late Thursday morning, McCarthy wouldn’t talk about whether he’d make any appointments to the committee, while insisting, “I take it serious [sic],” at least twice. He minimized Cheney’s decision to join the committee by questioning her conservatism, suggesting that “maybe she’s closer to her [Pelosi] than us.” If the staunchly conservative Cheney, her father’s heir, is indeed closer to Pelosi than McCarthy, that’s only because Pelosi really knows what she’s doing—competence used to be a conservative virtue—and McCarthy only pretends.
Well, I mean, he sort of knows what he’s doing. He’s protecting the disgraced former president Donald Trump.
But McCarthy undermined his anti-investigation stance by reading a list of security concerns that surfaced in a bipartisan Senate report, including the severely belated appearance of the National Guard and the scandalous under-arming/protection of the Capitol Police. The minority leader acted as though he’d found a smoking gun that explained what happened—he tried to tie the slow law enforcement response to concerns about the violent suppression of protests after George Floyd’s murder last summer—but he only mentioned that possible motive for January 6 under-policing once. The litany of law enforcement failures he presented sounded like just more evidence on behalf of the thoroughgoing investigation he opposes.
Such an investigation, of course, would likely include a request for McCarthy himself to testify about his conversation with Trump during that violent afternoon—a conversation in which Trump seemed to resist an angry McCarthy’s pleas for help in quelling the insurrection, telling the minority leader, “Well, Kevin, I guess these people are more upset about the election than you are,” according to GOP Representative Jamie Herrera-Beutler, a conversation introduced as evidence in the (second) House impeachment trial. It might also include a subpoena for Trump, but Pelosi deflected both questions as matters for the committee to decide, not her.
Which they are. After deciding that placating Trump was more important than protecting the country, McCarthy quickly switched his story from one that at least partly blamed Trump for the violence to one that exonerated him almost entirely. He thinks that’s his road to becoming House speaker. And maybe it is: The president’s party almost always loses seats in the next midterm election, and Democrats can only afford to lose a handful.
But the gutless McCarthy hardly seems the leader who can count on that advantage. Sure, his caucus is loaded with Always Trumpers and 2020 Big Lie believers. Winning the majority, however, depends on holding GOP seats in purple districts—and winning Democratic seats in similar territory. That’s certainly possible. It’s also possible that McCarthy’s fronting for Trump hurts his purple-district candidates, especially if the new Select Committee does its job.
Early Thursday afternoon, Cheney accepted her appointment to the committee.