House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), in making spurious objections to an agreement negotiated by his own member, Rep. John Katko (R-N.Y.), to set up an independent commission on the Jan. 6 insurrection, revealed he remains a toady for the disgraced former president who instigated the violent assault on the Capitol. That’s precisely what Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) has alleged, and her diagnosis proves again to be spot on.
McCarthy’s cowardly position betrays his own members, shows he will continue to put MAGA obedience above truth and democracy, and reminds the country why it would be dangerous to make him speaker. Part of his motivation is likely attributable to his own role as a witness. Unless he perjures himself or refuses to testify (risking a contempt finding), he will have to testify about a phone call on Jan. 6 in which he failed to persuade the outgoing president to rescue the Capitol. (Cheney has made clear that McCarthy should testify and added that she hopes he will do so without a subpoena.) The phone call indicts both people in that conversation — the president for refusing to perform his duties and McCarthy in covering up that salient point.
McCarthy may also be nervous that the commission will confirm that multiple members of the House may have played a more serious role in provoking the assault than previously known. We know Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Ala.) participated in the rally provoking the crowd. Allegations have also swirled that other Republican members gave tours of the Capitol to insurrectionists ahead of the attack. And, of course, a majority of House Republicans plus a batch of Senate Republicans sought to overthrow the electoral college results — even after the insurrection.
Whether McCarthy’s actions are to save his own skin or that of the former president and other Republicans, they should leave no doubt that he is beholden to Mar-a-Lago, not to the Constitution or his own constituents. (Speaking of his constituents, McCarthy also abandoned them in voting against the American Rescue Plan despite widespread poverty in his district.)
Miles Taylor, who co-organized a group of Republicans threatening to leave the party last week, said, “Rather than root out alleged traitors, Kevin McCarthy wants to give them a pass, turning a blind eye to the treacherous insurrection that took place in the seat of our democracy.” He added: “His decision to oppose a bipartisan Jan. 6 commission should be seen for what it is: a symbol of the current GOP leadership’s preference for burying the truth rather than facing it.” Unfortunately his argument that this action “should disqualify him from the speaker’s chair” will likely fall on deaf ears.
Evan McMullin, another one of the group’s organizers, went even further: “We can’t afford to have an anti-democracy, insurrection-friendly party in power. The risk is too great. Kevin McCarthy has led the party astray for years, which has already resulted in two cycles of Republican losses and a divided country.” In other words, people can go back to the GOP, but not unless and until it sheds its MAGA identity.
Another member of Taylor’s group simply tweeted headlines from Jan. 6:
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on Tuesday put out a rather mild statement scolding McCarthy: “Democrats made repeated efforts to seek a bipartisan compromise. But Leader McCarthy won’t take yes for an answer,” she said. “In his February 22 letter [in which McCarthy called for a commission], he made three requests to be addressed in Democrats’ discussion draft. Every single one was granted by Democrats, yet he still says no.” Perhaps she still has hope that some Republicans will agree to investigate an armed attack on our democracy instigated by the former president.
Imagine if Republicans had blocked the 9/11 Commission or if Democrats had blocked the Warren Commission looking into President John F. Kennedy’s assassination. The first question would be: What are they trying to hide? The next would be: How could someone who has taken an oath not put the Constitution above partisan defensiveness? Republicans, it seems, no longer care that they look like pawns or that they have violated their oaths. Americans must keep this in mind in 2022, 2024 and beyond.