GOP lawmakers stick by McCarthy despite Jan. 6 strategy criticism

·4 min read

House Republicans are sticking by Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy’s (R-Calif.) decision to boycott the Jan. 6 select committee, softening the blow from former President Trump publicly bashing McCarthy’s strategy as splashy hearings paint him in a negative light.

One of McCarthy’s original picks for the committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol attack, Rep. Troy Nehls (R-Texas), expressed a desire to counter the Democrats on the panel but took a what’s-done-is-done attitude.

“It would have been nice to be on the committee,” Nehls said. “But I respect the leader. It’s not my decision, it was his. He made the decision and I live with it.”

Rep. Kelly Armstrong (N.D.), another one of McCarthy’s picks, said that the GOP leader “100 percent” made the right choice to boycott the committee.

“Sometimes in the minority, you have two bad choices. Kevin made the only choice he can make, and I stand by him,” Armstrong said.

By not appointing members to the committee, Republicans lost the ability to be present during closed-door depositions, leaving Trump and his team with little insight as to what information the committee might release next. They also have no opportunity to shape the hearings or counter the Democrats’ questioning

“I think it would have been good if we had representation,” Trump told Punchbowl News in an interview this week. “We should’ve picked other people” after Pelosi blocked him from the committee, he added.

In another interview with conservative talk show host Wayne Allyn Root over the weekend, Trump said it was a “foolish decision” to not have members on the panel defending him.

Nearly a year ago, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) made the unprecedented move of vetoing two of McCarthy’s five picks to sit on the select committee, Reps. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) and Jim Banks (R-Ind.). In response, McCarthy pulled his other three picks: Reps. Rodney Davis (Ill.), Kelly Armstrong (R-N.D.) and Nehls.

Trump isn’t the only one who has criticized McCarthy for pulling his picks. Former Trump White House trade adviser Peter Navarro, who was arrested this month for contempt of Congress in defying a subpoena from the committee, in December called McCarthy’s decision his “original sin.”

“What an idiot,” Navarro told Newsmax. “I mean, he plays checkers in a chess world at a critical time. He refused to put Republicans on that committee other than Liz Cheney, who’s not a Republican, so we lost our opportunity to publicly press that advantage.”

McCarthy is standing by his decision.

“I do not regret not appointing anybody at all,” McCarthy said Thursday. “How can you have an honest investigation if the Speaker can appoint and pick and choose who can be on it?”

McCarthy, whose eye is on taking the Speaker’s gavel next year in a GOP majority, must tread carefully as Trump fumes about the hearing. Trump separately noted in the Wayne Allyn Root interview that he has not yet endorsed McCarthy to be Speaker. McCarthy said that he had talked to Trump the day after the interview.

Jordan, who has backed McCarthy to be Speaker next year and will likely be chair of the House Judiciary Committee in a GOP Majority, said that he thought Pelosi would have kept vetoing McCarthy’s picks until she got the “partisan” committee that she wanted.

“She was going to get a committee that can be totally partisan. I think that was always the goal,” Jordan said.

But Jordan declined to say that the criticism from Trump was fair or unfair.

“I think McCarthy has done as good a job as you can possibly do,” said Rep. James Comer (R-Ky.). “When Nancy Pelosi jerked a couple of people off the committee, then, you know, that wasn’t abiding by the rules. So he declared it an illegitimate committee.”

Publicly, top Republicans dismiss the committee as partisan because the only two Republicans on the panel, Reps. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) and Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.), were appointed by Pelosi and have broken with the majority of the House GOP conference on Trump. They have also argued publicly and in court that the panel is illegitimate due to it not having any GOP-appointed members. Federal courts have repeatedly upheld the committee’s authority.

But privately, some GOP members say that the Jan. 6 committee hearings have been effective, with each hearing being crafted to tell a story about a particular aspect of Trump’s denial of election results and the lead-up to the riot.

Aspects that make the hearings engaging, though — such as one member of the committee leading the hearing like a presentation and asking questions of witnesses, interjected with video clips — are largely due to no Republican-appointed members sitting on the committee. Typical congressional hearings have a witness selected by the minority and give each member five minutes to ask questions.

“It’s not him who made this decision,” Armstrong said. “Every time the Speaker says ‘unprecedented,’ she changes the rules. When you take off the guy who’s going to be the next chair of Judiciary, and you take off the guy who leads the largest conference in the Republican Party, it’s not about the two members. It’s about silencing entire constituencies.”

For the latest news, weather, sports, and streaming video, head to The Hill.