Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., has been named vice chair of the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, the panel's Democratic chairman announced Thursday. In a statement, Chairman Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., said it's important that the committee keeps the probe bipartisan.
"We are fortunate to have a partner of such strength and courage, and I look forward to continuing our work together as we uncover the facts, tell the American people the full story of January 6th, and ensure that nothing like that day ever happens again," Thompson said in a statement.
The use of the word "partner" was especially notable. On nearly all congressional committees, the top member from the majority party is the chair, while the top member of the minority party is the ranking member. On the Jan. 6 committee, however, the Democratic chairman has agreed to make Cheney a vice chair — not a ranking member.
In other words, Thompson and Cheney have agreed to forge a partnership in pursuit of the truth about the insurrectionist attack on the Capitol.
And while I imagine the Wyoming congresswoman appreciates the opportunity, as well as the authority that comes with her new role, the timing of these developments is of interest. CNN reported late yesterday:
The head of the conservative House Freedom Caucus is planning to send a letter to House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy this week calling on him to change the rules in order to remove Reps. Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger from the Republican Conference for their roles on the January 6 select committee, CNN has learned. Rep. Andy Biggs of Arizona — a loyalist to former President Donald Trump who helped spearhead the push to overturn the election results in Congress — is circulating the letter to his colleagues to collect more signatures.
In his letter, Biggs referred to Cheney and Kinzinger as "spies" for the Democrats.
To be sure, while the congressman's letter is new, the effort is not. As regular readers may recall, Biggs began an effort in July to formally remove Cheney and Kinzinger from the House Republican conference — which the Wyoming congresswoman began this year chairing. If successful, Biggs' effort wouldn't remove Kinzinger and Cheney from Congress, but it would exile them from the congressional GOP: The duo would, in practical terms, be independents, regardless of how they personally identified their party affiliation.
The circulation of Biggs' letter suggests rank-and-file House conservatives haven't let this go. On the contrary, the intra-party campaign against Cheney and Kinzinger is now intensifying.
There's certainly room for a larger conversation about whether the two Republican members on the House's Jan. 6 committee actually deserve such partisan pushback. Given their voting records, I'm firmly of the opinion that the GOP campaign to cancel them is absurd.
The more immediate question, however, is whether Biggs' gambit will work.
As a procedural matter, ousting Cheney and Kinzinger from the House Republican conference won't be easy: If the party's leadership agrees to pursue the matter, it'll require the support of two-thirds of GOP members to force the lawmakers out.
That won't necessarily be easy, though many of these same House Republicans succeeded in forcing Cheney from her leadership post in May, so I wouldn't bet against them.
Postscript: Just as an aside, there is a larger political context to keep in mind as the process unfolds. As recently as last week, it seemed Republicans were increasingly united, linking arms in opposition to President Joe Biden and his agenda.
The House Freedom Caucus' effort against Kinzinger and Cheney suggests some in the GOP are eager to shift the focus back to the divisions within the Republican Party.