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Republicans hedge on participating in congressional Jan. 6 probe

Republican leaders will be able to nominate members to serve on a new Jan. 6 investigatory panel, but they may choose not to bother.

Congressional Republicans may not have fully appreciated just how good a deal Democrats put on the table. Over the course of lengthy negotiations over an independent commission to examine the Jan. 6 attack, Democratic leaders accepted practically every GOP demand.

The result would've created a panel evenly split among Democratic and Republican members, which in turn would've made it impossible to issue subpoenas the GOP didn't like. Just as importantly, Dems agreed to a strict time limit: the commission would've wrapped up its investigation by the end of the year.

Republicans nevertheless refused to take "yes" for an answer, paving the way for a new process the GOP will like far less.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Monday introduced a bill to establish a committee to investigate the Jan. 6 attack at the U.S. Capitol that's heavily weighted towards Democrats after Senate Republicans scuttled a bipartisan deal last month.... The bill, which was expected to go to the Rules Committee on Monday night and then the House floor on Wednesday, puts Pelosi firmly in control of the process.

According to the new plan, Pelosi will appoint 13 members of the new special select committee -- every member will be a sitting House lawmaker -- five of whom will be appointed after "consultation" with House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.).

That would appear to set the stage for a Democratic majority on the panel -- eight members to five -- though Pelosi is reportedly considering appointing a Republican of her own to the committee, which in turn would give Dems a narrower seven-to-six advantage.

Among the Republicans the Speaker is reportedly considering are Reps. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) and Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.), both of whom broke with their party on matters related to January's insurrectionist violence.

Unlike the independent commission the GOP chose to reject, the special select committee will have subpoena power, a dedicated staff, no firm deadline, and a Democratic chair chosen by Pelosi. It will be well positioned to get answers.

What's less clear is whether Republicans will care. As we discussed last week, GOP leaders might simply refuse to name anyone to a select committee, which wouldn't derail its investigation, but which would make it appear more of a partisan exercise.

On Friday, Kevin McCarthy wouldn't commit to choosing any members to serve on Jan. 6 select committee. This morning, the Republican leadership offered more of the same.

House Republicans remained noncommittal Tuesday about whether they would participate in a select committee proposed by Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) to probe the Jan. 6 Capitol attack, with Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) telling reporters he "can't say" what will happen.... "I can't answer that question," Scalise said when asked whether Republicans will be seated on the panel.

Common sense may suggest that GOP leaders will pick five of their most unhinged members in order to create a circus that detracts from the investigation and its findings. But what wasn't clear until this week is that such a tactic won't be that easy: according to Pelosi, the legislation to create the special select committee gives her the authority to reject McCarthy's selections if he chooses crackpots.

If Republican leaders agree to participate in the process, the party will at least have a theoretical role in helping shape the investigation and learning in real time what the committee is uncovering. If GOP leaders balk at the whole endeavor, the party will find it easier to dismiss the eventual findings as "partisan" -- though they're all but certain to do that anyway.

Watch this space.