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Republicans eye penalties for GOP members probing Jan. 6 attack

Two House Republicans have agreed to help investigate the Jan. 6 attack. For much of the GOP, that's simply intolerable.


After House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) rejected two of the House GOP's indefensible selections for the Jan. 6 investigatory committee, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) issued a furious statement in response. Republican lawmakers, he wrote, "will not be party to [Pelosi's] sham process."

Even at the time, it was a curious quote. Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) -- up until fairly recently, a member of the House GOP leadership -- had already agreed to serve on the special select committee, making the process inherently bipartisan. Yesterday, she was joined by another Republican colleague.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has added Republican Rep. Adam Kinzinger, an outspoken Trump critic, to the House select committee charged with investigating the Jan. 6 attack, she said in a statement on Sunday.

"I swore an oath to uphold and defend the Constitution -- and while this is not the position I expected to be in or sought out, when duty calls, I will always answer," Kinzinger said in a written statement announcing his decision to accept the appointment.

In late June, when the House voted to create this special select committee, a grand total of two House Republicans voted with the majority. Now, they're both members of the investigatory panel.

The same week, Kevin McCarthy reportedly told his members that he's prepared to punish any GOP member who agreed to serve as a Pelosi appointee, possibly by stripping them of their committee assignments. At the time, Adam Kinzinger, one of the apparent targets of the threat, confirmed McCarthy's intimidation attempt, though the Illinois Republican told Politico he didn't much care. "Who gives a s**t?" Kinzinger said.

Evidently, a month later, his indifference toward McCarthy's threats hasn't changed.

In practical terms, the bipartisan House committee will now proceed with its work, starting with public testimony tomorrow. The Washington Post reported that the panel will hear from four police officers -- two from the Capitol’s protection squad and two from D.C. police — who are "expected to testify about their experiences of both physical and verbal abuse on Jan. 6, as they tried to protect the Capitol from a swelling horde of demonstrators determined to stop Congress’s efforts to certify the 2020 electoral college results and declare Joe Biden the next president."

As for the political implications, CNN reported overnight that a "growing group" of House Republicans are pushing for their party leaders to punish both Cheney and Kinzinger for their perceived betrayal.

"While the loudest cries have come from members of the hard-right Freedom Caucus," the report added, "sources say that the sentiment has started to spread beyond the hard-line crew."

It's a difficult demand to take seriously. As we discussed several weeks ago, there's nothing especially extraordinary about Cheney's and Kinzinger's participation. On the surface, the idea that these circumstances are "shocking" is silly. The United States' seat of government faced its deadliest attack in more than two centuries; Congress is seeking answers about the insurrectionist riot; a House Speaker invited several House members to serve on an investigatory committee; and the members agreed.

But for McCarthy and much of his GOP conference, it's not that simple. As they see it, there isn't one House of Representatives; there are two: one for Democrats and another for Republicans. By this reasoning, Cheney and Kinzinger have a responsibility -- not to the country, not to the rule of law, and certainly not to the truth, but to their party's tribal vision.

For too many Republicans, the job of House Speaker is effectively that of a glorified majority leader, which means Cheney and Kinzinger should have nothing to do with Pelosi's "team." These members -- conservative Republicans, but Trump critics -- apparently aren't supposed to participate in an inquiry the GOP is desperate to squelch for the most pernicious of reasons: the truth might be inconvenient for Republicans, their base, and their failed former president.

The bipartisan investigation is happening anyway.