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Pelosi advances plan for Jan. 6 probe, putting McCarthy on the spot

Nancy Pelosi didn't just launch a bipartisan Jan. 6 investigation, she also put Kevin McCarthy in a very uncomfortable position.

With Republicans having rejected a bipartisan plan for an independent commission to investigate the Jan. 6 attack, House Democrats are moving forward with Plan B. The chamber approved a resolution yesterday to create a new special select committee that will have the power to get answers about the insurrectionist violence targeting the U.S. Capitol.

Today, Dems advanced the plan in unexpectedly interesting ways.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Thursday announced her appointed members of the newly created select committee to investigate the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol.... Pelosi, D-Calif., introduced her appointments at her weekly news conference, and said the forming of the panel is part of the next step in investigating the Jan. 6 riot, which "has always been to seek and to find the truth."

Under the plan, the new committee will have 13 members, five of whom will be appointed after "consultation" with House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.). Pelosi's appointees were named this morning:

  • House Homeland Security Committee Chair Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.)
  • House Administration Committee Chair Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.)
  • House Intelligence Committee Chair Adam Schiff (D-Calif.)
  • Rep. Pete Aguilar (D-Calif.)
  • Rep. Stephanie Murphy (D-Fla.)
  • Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.)
  • Rep. Elaine Luria (D-Va.)
  • Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.)

Thompson will be tasked with overseeing the investigation as the select committee's chairman.

Cheney's name, of course, stood out as especially notable because she's a conservative Republican. Indeed, Pelosi could've chosen to give her party an eight-to-five-member advantage on the panel, but by adding the Wyoming congresswoman to the Speaker's slate, Democrats will have a narrower seven-to-six advantage.

All of which leaves us with two questions as the investigatory process begins in earnest.

First, will there be other Republican members on the select committee? House GOP leaders have refused to say whether they intend to boycott the investigation altogether, and it's entirely possible that McCarthy and his Republican team will simply refuse to participate.

Asked about such a scenario this morning, Pelosi told reporters the select committee would have a quorum, and the probe would move forward whether GOP leaders nominated members or not. (I use the word "nominate," instead of "appoint," because Pelosi has the authority to reject extremists if McCarthy priorities partisan mischief over governing.)

Second, what will McCarthy do in response to Cheney? Punchbowl News was first to report that the House minority leader told his members that he's prepared to punish any House Republican who agreed to serve as a Pelosi appointee, specifically by stripping them of their committee assignments.

Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.), one of the apparent targets of the threat, seemed to confirm McCarthy's intimidation attempt this morning, though the Illinois Republican told Politico he didn't much care. "Who gives a s**t?" Kinzinger said.

The fact that McCarthy would even make such a threat was quite extraordinary, in large part because it reinforced the degree to which the House GOP leader is repulsed by the idea of bipartisanship.

But Pelosi's decision to add Cheney to the committee also had the effect of putting McCarthy on the spot: the Republican leader will either have to follow through on his threat or he'll have to back down in ways that will do further damage to his already tarnished credibility.

And, of course, if McCarthy does follow through, he'll be left in a terribly awkward place in which he'll have to explain why Cheney's interest in the truth warrants punishment -- on the heels of McCarthy already having punished Cheney for telling the truth about the 2020 elections -- but he's content to look the other way in response to his many members who stand accused of engaging in indefensible misconduct.

The ball just landed in your court, Mr. Minority Leader.