Kevin McCarthy Has Forfeited His Right to Appoint Members to the 1/6 Commission

Kevin McCarthy and his owner. Gov. image, public domain.

House Republican leader - and likely witness for a potential commission to investigate the pro-Trump insurrection of the US Capitol on January 6 - has unsurprisingly come out against such a commission.

The key reason McCarthy gave for rejecting the commission, negotiated by the top Democrat and Republican on the House Homeland Security Committee, Bennie Thompson (D) and John Katko (R), is that the scope of the commission is limited to the January 6 domestic terrorist attacks against our democracy. McCarthy, at the behest of Donald Trump and other insurrectionists, wanted to muddy the waters by adding to the commission's list civil rights protests that were at times turned into chaos by anarchists.

Despite McCarthy's position, a good number of Republicans appears to agree with the unanimity of Democrats that the 9/11-style Commission should have a clear, unidirectional focus: find out what led to 1/6 and how to prevent the next one. Rep. Katko of New York negotiated the deal with good faith. Rep. Liz Cheney, recently ousted from her House leadership position for daring to tell the truth about Donald Trump's big election lie, has reiterated again and again that the Commission's focus should remain narrow so that they can do one thing and do it well. Cheney has also stated bluntly that McCarthy should testify to the commission, either voluntarily or under subpoena.

The legislation also appears to be gaining steam in the Senate, although due to the filibuster, passage remains uncertain. In the past few days, Republican Senators Lisa Murkowski (AK) and Mike Rounds (IN) have indicated their support for a commission that focuses their attention solely on the 1/6 insurrection. Murkowski has even suggested that Trump would make a key witness for the commission.

And so even though McCarthy has come out against the commission to serve as a loyal footsoldier to a disgraced former president who instigated the 1/6 attack, it appears the legislation establishing the commission will pass with a bipartisan majority in the House.

But McCarthy's clear willingness to undermine the Commission will not end with his 'No' vote in service of Donald Trump.

The legislation equally divides the appointments to the 10-member commission - none of whom may be a currently serving member of Congress or the administration - among Democratic and Republican Congressional leaders. Specifically,
  1. A Chair appointed jointly by the Speaker of the House and the Majority Leader of the Senate.
  2. A Vice-Chair appointed jointly by the Minority Leaders of the House and the Senate.
  3. 2 members each appointed by the Speaker, the Senate Majority Leader, and the Minority Leaders of each house.
In other words, even after voting against it, McCarthy will have at least two chances to throw monkey wrenches into the process: the first when appointing the Vice Chair in cooperation with Mitch McConnell, and the second from the two members that he will have sole power to appoint as House Minority Leader.

The Commission is designed to work in a bipartisan way. It will have subpoena power, for example, but it will not be able to issue one without either the concurrence of the Chair and the Vice Chair or the vote of a majority of its members.

That begs the question: why should someone who is clearly opposing the commission in order to protect - and likely under strict orders from - the most critical instigator of the insurrection, Donald Trump, be allowed to name members to it? What guarantee is there that Donald Trump himself won't be appointing those members by proxy?

There are none, and Kevin McCarthy cannot be trusted.

McCarthy has not only stood by Trump but by the insurrectionists as well. He booted Cheney from Republican leadership because of her temerity to tell the truth about the election and about 1/6, but he opposed the removal of QAnon Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene from her committee assignments. He continues to stand by people attempting to whitewash the most dangerous physical attack against our democracy since the Civil War, and he is protecting Matt Gaetz, a Trump mini-me mired in a sex trafficking investigation by the FBI.

At every single step, McCarthy has sided with Trump and against truth.

Kevin McCarthy has not earned the right to appoint people to a commission whose job it will be to seriously investigate 1/6, without fear or favor, regardless of political fallout. He is simply incapable of doing so.

The appointing authority could be transferred instead to the original Republican and Democratic cosponsors of the legislation - Thompson and Katko in the House. Appointment authority could also be taken out of present elected leadership entirely and given to the last Democratic and Republican presidents before Trump, namely, Presidents Obama and Bush. Or it could be given to the two senior justices appointed by presidents of both parties to the Supreme Court: Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Stephen Breyer.

Or, the appointments can be split between Pelosi and McConnell (which would represent both houses and both parties). But McCarthy is simply not up to the job.

At the end of the day, I don't expect the composition of a hard-negotiated compromise to change because of some very legitimate concerns that Kevin McCarthy's sympathies lies with the head insurrectionist, Donald Trump. But in an ideal world, he would not be allowed to get close to this investigation.

For now, let's hope that the damage McCarthy will do to a 1/6 commission can be kept to a minimum.

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