Pelosi then decided to form a select committee, chose Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) to participate and even offered House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), the disgraced former president’s chief apologist, the opportunity to name five members. McCarthy picked three who participated in the attempt to overthrow the election results, including one who immediately trashed the committee after his appointment.
Pelosi, who could have let Republicans expose themselves as unhinged, unpatriotic provocateurs, rejected two of those appointments. In a fit of pique, McCarthy said he would pull all five of his people, hysterically threatening on Wednesday to run his own investigation. That, of course, would highlight only how unserious and untrustworthy his party truly is. Pelosi is free, of course, to appoint additional, responsible Republicans, such as Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.) who condemned the insurrection, voted to impeach the instigator in chief and supported a bipartisan commission.
Cheney gave a thumbs-up to Pelosi’s decision. “At every opportunity the minority leader has attempted to prevent the American people from understanding what happened [on January 6], to block this investigation,” Cheney said Wednesday. “I agree with what the speaker has done.” For good measure, she added: “Any person who would be third in line to the presidency must demonstrate a commitment to the Constitution and a commitment to the rule of law, and Minority Leader McCarthy has not done that.”
There’s no need to dive into political gamesmanship here. Were these tactics smart? Who won? The media should be as serious about our democracy as Pelosi is. The “story” is simple: Republicans continue to cover up and defend a violent insurrection instigated by their cult hero. They blocked a bipartisan commission and now won’t participate unless their disruptive members have a chance to throw the committee into chaos.
McCarthy’s decision to take his ball and march off in a huff might have bad consequences for the GOP. First, the select committee may now be the rare congressional investigation that is serious, professional and focused. Without the provocateurs and Jan. 6 apologists, its members can proceed unimpeded through their witness list, subpoena documents and produce a comprehensive account of the day’s events, the forces behind it and the recommended steps to prevent this from reoccurring. (Step 1: Do not give McCarthy the speakership.)
Second, this is another blow to Republicans who won seats in swing districts in 2020. They have no cover to claim that they can influence the party for the better. A vote for the most moderate Republican is a vote to grant McCarthy (or his puppeteer at Mar-a-Lago) power over the House and to install people such as Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) as chairs of congressional committees.
And that brings us to the emerging political realignment. With the defenestration of Cheney from House leadership, the filibuster of the commission and ongoing groveling before the former president, the GOP has effectively split in two. The overwhelming majority is firmly attached to the MAGA cult, unable to govern seriously and willing to further sabotage our democracy; the second is a handful of House members and senators who evidence some commitment to uphold their oaths, defend the rule of law and stay within shouting distance of reality. They may still be obstructionist and wildly out of tune with the country (e.g., willing to renege on a bipartisan infrastructure deal that would fund the Internal Revenue Service to go after tax cheats), but they are not nuts, frankly.
To the extent that Democrats want to continue to build a firewall around democracy, they should do whatever it takes to keep the minority of Republican voters who despise the Trumpification of their party on board. Fortunately for Democrats, McCarthy has provided evidence that the GOP is beyond rescue and unfit to hold power.