After Republican Reps. Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger agreed to serve on the Jan. 6 committee, their GOP colleagues decided they deserved the pariah treatment. The question wasn't whether they deserved to be punished, it was how the party penalize them.
The answer came into focus this afternoon. NBC News reported that Republican National Committee voted Friday to formally censure both lawmakers.
An RNC panel had advanced the measure on Thursday, which said that the committee will "immediately cease any and all support of them as members of the Republican Party for their behavior, which has been destructive to the institution of the U.S. House of Representatives, the Republican Party and our republic, and is inconsistent with the position of the conference."
In case this isn't obvious, the behavior the RNC considers "destructive" is serving on the bipartisan House select committee investigating one of the most serious instances of political violence in U.S. history.
The resolution was considered and approved as part of the RNC's winter meeting. Today's process was a voice vote, and there were only a handful of voices who were heard opposing the effort.
I more or less assumed the party's resolution would be a straightforward rebuke of two lawmakers who dared to ask questions Republicans prefer to ignore. But the document is far more ridiculous than that. The RNC's resolution:
- accuses Cheney and Kinzinger of trying to "sabotage" their party;
- claims the duo care more about holding Donald Trump accountable than the party's electoral ambitions;
- insists they've engaged in behavior "not befitting Republican members of Congress";
- says the lawmakers are "deliberately jeopardizing" their party's 2022 strategies;
- and concludes that Cheney and Kinzinger "are participating in a Democrat-led persecution of ordinary citizens engaged in legitimate political discourse."
In terms of the practical implications, both House Republican lawmakers are still House Republicans, and at least at this point, there's little to suggest the party will kick them out of the conference.
That said, the RNC will now immediately cease "any and all support" for the members, which is notable in part because Cheney is facing a competitive primary campaign in Wyoming this year.
But the practical implications for the members are less important than what we're learning about the state of Republican politics in 2022. When the Republican National Committee offers more support for suspected criminals than sitting Republican members of Congress, something is clearly amiss.
The Bulwark's Amanda Carpenter added, "The fact the RNC is censuring Cheney and Kinzinger for investigating January 6 and not condemning Trump for causing January 6 is absolutely demented."
Remember, we're not just talking about some fringe faction in Republican politics. Today's vote was not limited to members of the Freedom Caucus.
This was the Republican National Committee — an entity that occasionally likes to say it's emphasizing "party unity" in an election year — going after two of their own, both of whom are lifelong Republicans with conservative voting records.
The fact remains, however, that Cheney and Kinzinger agreed to examine the most serious attack on the U.S. Capitol since the War of 1812, and they've shown resistance to their party's slide toward authoritarianism. For that, today, they paid an unnecessary price.