WASHINGTON (AP) – House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has rejected two Republicans solicited by House GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy to sit on a committee to investigate the Jan. 6 Capitol uprising, a decision that the Republican denounced as “a flagrant abuse of power”.
McCarthy said the GOP would not participate in the inquiry if Democrats did not accept the members he had appointed.
Pelosi cited the “integrity” of the investigation by refusing on Wednesday to accept nominations for Indiana Rep. Jim Banks, chosen by McCarthy to be the top Republican on the panel, or Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan. Both men are outspoken allies of former President Donald Trump, whose supporters besieged Capitol Hill that day and halted President Joe Biden’s certification of victory. Both voted to overturn the election results within hours of the siege.
Democrats said the investigation would continue whether Republicans participate or not, because Pelosi has already named eight of the 13 members – including Republican Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming, a critic of Trump – and that gives them a bipartisan quorum for proceed, according to the rules of the committee.
Pelosi said she spoke with McCarthy and told him she would reject both names.
“Out of respect for the integrity of the investigation, insisting on the truth and worrying about the statements made and actions taken by these members, I must reject the recommendations of Representatives Banks and Jordan to the select committee,” said Pelosi said in a statement. .
Pelosi has the power to approve or reject members, according to committee rules, although she admitted that her decision was unusual. She said “the unprecedented nature of January 6 demands this unprecedented decision.”
The move is emblematic of the heightened political tensions in Congress that have only intensified since the insurgency and raises the possibility that the investigation – the only full investigation currently being conducted into the attack – will be conducted almost entirely by Democrats. The House voted in May to create an independent inquiry that would have been split evenly across parties, but Senate Republicans blocked that approach in a vote last month.
McCarthy said Pelosi’s decision would damage the institution of Congress.
“Unless President Pelosi changes course and sits on the five Republican candidates, Republicans will not participate in their sham process and instead continue our own investigation of the facts,” McCarthy said.
It is unclear how McCarthy would conduct a separate investigation, as the minority does not have the power to create committees. He said the panel lost “all legitimacy” because Pelosi would not allow Republicans to appoint their own members.
Most GOP members have remained loyal to Trump despite a violent insurgency by his supporters that sent many lawmakers running for their lives. McCarthy did not say for weeks whether Republicans would even participate in the inquiry, but he sent all five names to Pelosi on Monday.
Pelosi accepted McCarthy’s other three picks – Illinois Rep Rodney Davis, North Dakota Rep Kelly Armstrong and Texas Rep Troy Nehls. But McCarthy said all five or none would participate.
Like Jordan and Banks, Nehls voted to undo Biden’s victory. Armstrong and Davis voted to certify the election.
Banks recently traveled with Trump to the US-Mexico border and visited him at his New Jersey golf course. In a statement after McCarthy selected him for the panel, he sharply criticized the Democrats who put him in place.
“Make no mistake, Nancy Pelosi created this committee only to slander the Conservatives and justify the authoritarian left agenda,” Banks said.
Democrats Pelosi appointed to the committee earlier this month were angry at the statement, according to a senior Democratic official familiar with the private deliberations and who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss it. They were also concerned about Banks’ two recent visits with Trump, the person said.
Jordan, the top Republican on the House Judiciary Committee, has been one of Trump’s strongest supporters in his two impeachments and last month compared the new inquiry to “impeachment three.” Trump was impeached by the House and acquitted by the Senate each time.
The back-and-forth came after all but two Republicans opposed the creation of the select committee in a House vote last month, with most GOP members arguing that the Democratic majority panel would conduct a partisan investigation. Only Cheney and another frequent critic of Trump, Republican Representative Adam Kinzinger of Illinois, voted in favor of the panel.
Cheney told reporters she thought the rhetoric from McCarthy, Jordan and Banks was “shameful” and that she agreed with Pelosi’s decision to dismiss the two Republicans.
“At every opportunity, the Minority Leader tried to prevent the American people from understanding what happened – to block this investigation,” Cheney said of McCarthy.
The panel will hold its first hearing next week, with at least four base police officers who fought rioters that day, testifying about their experiences. Dozens of police were injured when the violent crowd passed them and stormed into the Capitol building.
Mississippi representative Bennie Thompson, chairman of the panel, said the committee will carry out its duties.
“It has been more than 6 months since the attack, we owe it to our democracy to stay the course and not be distracted by side shows,” Thompson said in a statement. “That is exactly what we will do next Tuesday, when members of the bipartisan committee collect testimonies from frontline heroes who risk their lives to protect our democracy.”
Seven people died during and after the riots, including a woman who was shot dead by police as she tried to break into the House bedroom and three other Trump supporters who suffered medical emergencies.
Two police officers died by suicide in the days that followed, and a third officer, Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick, collapsed and later died after engaging with protesters. A medical examiner determined he died of natural causes.
Associated Press writer Kevin Freking in Washington contributed to this report.