Senate

Senate GOP keeps distance from RNC’s Jan. 6 rhetoric

Top Senate Republicans are keeping their distance from the Republican National Committee’s (RNC) characterization of Jan. 6, 2021, as “normal political discourse” and its censure of Reps. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.) and Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.). 

Members of Senate GOP leadership, who gathered on Monday for a weekly meeting, warned that focusing on Jan. 6 wasn’t a unifier for the party. 

“I just think right now if we want to win the elections in November, [there are] better things for us to be focused on,” said Sen. John Thune (S.D.), the No. 2 GOP senator. 

“I think the focus right now needs to be forward, not backward. If we want to get majorities in the fall, it’s better to turn our fire on Democrats, not on each other,” he said. 

Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), an adviser to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), said referring to Jan. 6, when a mob of the former president’s supporters breached the Capitol, as “legitimate political discourse” was “not an accurate description.”  

“Being accurate is really important in particular when you are talking about something that sensitive,” he said.

Asked about the RNC censuring Kinzinger and Cheney, Cornyn said he thought it was “not a unifying action,” though he also thinks the two GOP lawmakers shouldn’t have accepted the appointment to the Jan. 6 committee. 

Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), another adviser to McConnell, said the party had other “issues that we should be focusing on besides censuring two members of Congress.” 

Asked if she thought it was a problematic position for the party, Capito, who was heading into McConnell’s office, said that she was “going to move on from there.”

The RNC passed a resolution on Friday censuring Cheney and Kinzinger for engaging in the “persecution of ordinary citizens engaged in legitimate political discourse,” referring to the Jan. 6 assault on the Capitol. 

RNC Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel appeared to try to clarify the statement amid nearly immediate backlash, saying in a statement that the two GOP lawmakers were involved in persecuting citizens “engaged in legitimate political discourse,” but “that had nothing to do with violence at the Capitol.” The last section was not in the RNC resolution.  

The resolution’s language sparked pushback from GOP lawmakers and Democrats alike. 

Among Senate Republicans, the GOP senators who previously voted to impeach former President Trump last year were among the most vocal in their criticism.  

“Those who assaulted police officers, broke windows and breached the Capitol were not engaged in legitimate political discourse, and to say otherwise is absurd,” GOP Sen. Susan Collins (Maine) told reporters on Monday. 

Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) said that he texted with McDaniel, who is his niece, and “expressed my point of view.”

Not every GOP senator weighed in on Monday.  

McConnell, asked about the censure resolution, told reporters that he would address the issue on Tuesday, when he does a weekly press conference. 

Sen. Rick Scott (Fla.), the chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, said the RNC’s language is “what they want to say.”

“That’s a decision that members of the RNC get to make. … I think what happened on Jan. 6 was wrong,” Scott said.  

Asked a question about the censure, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) said it wasn’t “the real world in Iowa.”

“I’m hearing about the cattle bill. I’m talking about the prescription drugs stuff. And those are policies I got to worry about,” Grassley said. 

Tags Adam Kinzinger Chuck Grassley Donald Trump John Cornyn John Thune Liz Cheney Mitch McConnell Mitt Romney Ronna McDaniel Shelley Moore Capito Susan Collins

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