In June, weeks after Senate Republicans filibustered legislation to set up an independent, bipartisan commission to investigate the Jan. 6 Capitol riot, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi moved ahead with Plan B: setting up a select committee within the House to perform the investigation. This one, like Republicans’ select committee to investigate the Benghazi attacks last decade, would be far more partisan in tilt.
The resolution setting up the select committee, which passed the House in late June, gave Pelosi the authority to “appoint 13 Members to the Select Committee, 5 of whom shall be appointed after consultation with the minority leader.” That is usually just polite legislative language allotting the minority five committee appointments. The Benghazi committee resolution, similarly, gave the speaker power to “appoint 12 Members to the Select Committee, five of whom shall be appointed after consultation with the minority leader.” Pelosi, then the minority leader, picked five members, who were accepted.
McCarthy announced his five picks to Jan. 6 committee on Tuesday: Reps. Jim Banks, Jim Jordan, Troy Nehls, Kelly Armstrong, and Rodney Davis. On Wednesday, though, Pelosi pulled a move she conceded was “unprecedented”: She actually used the veto power granted to her in the resolution and told McCarthy that she would reject the two most MAGA of his picks, Banks and Jordan.
“With respect for the integrity of the investigation, with an insistence on the truth and with concern about statements made and actions taken by these Members, I must reject the recommendations of Representatives Banks and Jordan to the Select Committee,” she said in a statement. “The unprecedented nature of January 6th demands this unprecedented decision.”
McCarthy responded by withdrawing his entire slate of appointees, and argued that Pelosi’s move “represents an egregious abuse of power” that “will irreparably damage this institution.” The newest and phoniest—and that says something—member of leadership, Republican Conference Chair Elise Stefanik, declared that Pelosi was a “radical AUTHORITARIAN Speaker of the House.”
McCarthy said that Republicans would, instead, “pursue our own investigation of the facts,” perhaps from his friend’s mom’s backyard treehouse.
Republicans see Pelosi’s move as a gift, the exact move they needed to solidify their argument that this select committee is a political exercise that shouldn’t be taken seriously. But the point of putting Banks and Jordan on the committee was also to make the argument, from the committee, that it was a political exercise that shouldn’t be taken seriously. McCarthy nominated those two to muddy the waters during hearings, to run interference for Donald Trump, and to give counterprogramming sound bites for Fox News to run on its evening programs.
Now, at least, the committee can go about its business without distractions from those members who were placed on the committee with the explicit purpose of creating distractions. And there will still be at least one Republican—Liz Cheney, whom Pelosi appointed—on the committee, by the way. Now that Pelosi has five fresh appointments to make, too, she could consider another Republican pariah, like Illinois Rep. Adam Kinzinger, as well.
It is also difficult not to appreciate this latest burst of resolve from late-stage, post–Jan. 6 Nancy Pelosi, who continues to spend what’s likely her final term in Congress simply going for it. She has wholly abandoned the thumb-twiddling anxiety that typically defines Democratic leadership. This Congress, she’s impeached a president for the second time, stripped a Republican member of their committee positions along near-partisan lines, and pledged to sit on a bipartisan Senate infrastructure bill for as long as she pleases. Now she’s actually played the “consultation” veto card on minority committee appointments because she thinks the appointees are scumbags. Part of this is a longtime party leader operating at the height of confidence. But it’s also an extension of a post–Jan. 6 attitude change among House Democrats: House Republicans can’t just abet Trump’s effort to overturn an election and expect to be afforded their traditional privileges.