It's been a couple of days since the bipartisan House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack held a gripping hearing, hearing testimony from police officers who shared their terrifying experiences during the insurrectionist riot. For most congressional Republicans, the hearing was irrelevant and better left ignored.
What rank-and-file GOP lawmakers cared far more about was the members of their conference who participated in the process.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) invited Reps. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) and Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.) to serve on the investigatory panel, and the House Republicans agreed.
Almost immediately after the duo accepted the invitation to serve, there was a "growing group" of House Republicans pushing for Republican leaders to cancel Kinzinger and Cheney for their perceived betrayal. On Monday, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) labeled the pair "Pelosi Republicans."
The next morning, Rep. Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.), chair of the right-wing House Freedom Caucus, unveiled a proposal to expel both members from the House GOP conference.
The right clearly isn't letting this go.
The conservative House Freedom Caucus is calling for the removal of Reps. Liz Cheney of Wyoming and Adam Kinzinger of Illinois from the Republican caucus, an effort to punish the pair for joining the committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol...."It was antithetical to have sitting in your conference, individuals who have professed they want to take out the minority leader," House Freedom Caucus Chair Andy Biggs, R-Ariz., said during a news conference Thursday.
At the same event, Rep. Matt Rosendale (R-Mont.) added that the pair deserve to be "eliminated" from the Republican conference, after having "surrendered" their right to participate. Rep. Ralph Norman (R-S.C.) reportedly also shared this striking analogy: "What if you had a football game and two players, just all of a sudden, kept the same uniform and started playing for another team? That's what we got with these two members."
It came two days after Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) asked, in apparent reference to Kinzinger and Cheney, "What's the difference between Democrats and Never Trumpers?"
It was probably a rhetorical question, though the answer matters more than the controversial congressman may realize.
Given the severity of the pushback, a casual observer might conclude that Cheney and Kinzinger have become liberals, aligning themselves with Democrats on a series of key legislative priorities.
They have not. Kinzinger, who voted with Trump's position more than 90% of the time, and Cheney, who voted with the former president roughly 93% of the time, have simply agreed to examine the most serious attack on the U.S. Capitol since the War of 1812, at the invitation of the Speaker of the House.
That's it. That's their transgression. That's the proof that they've become members of "another team."
"What's the difference between Democrats and Never Trumpers?" Well, in the case of Cheney and Kinzinger, the differences are overwhelming: these two House Republicans believe in democracy, and recognize the threat the former president poses to our system of government, but on matters of policy and governing, Democrats, Kinzinger, and Cheney have very little in common.
And therein lies the point: because the contemporary GOP doesn't care about policy or governing, the differences between Democrats, Kinzinger, and Cheney are seen as largely irrelevant.
Ronald Reagan is said to have told his team, "The person who agrees with you 80% of the time is a friend and an ally -- not a 20% traitor." A generation later, many House Republicans have come to believe their own colleagues, who agree with them more than 90% of the time, are nevertheless traitors if they care about the facts surrounding an attack on the Capitol.
If these GOP lawmakers eager to prove that Republicans are a post-policy party, they're succeeding beautifully.