Feehery: McCarthy dealt with Jan. 6 select committee correctly
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) played the Jan. 6 committee exactly right. Here are six reasons why.
1) Nobody cares about the Jan. 6 committee. Sure, the inside the Beltway media cares, the liberal elite cares and the Democrats care (to a certain extent). This is especially the case following the Supreme Court’s Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health decision. Polls show that interest is low in the committee and its findings. The ratings have been horrific. As two Democratic members of Congress told Jonathan Swan of Axios, “nobody cares about January 6th when they talk about their districts and how the elections play out.”
2) Republicans score points when they talk about what the voters care about. Polls show that inflation, the economy, crime and the southern border are the top concerns for most voters. Keeping his colleagues focused on the big issues is good for McCarthy.
3) Zero percent of Republicans are defending Donald Trump. What happened on Jan. 6 was not a congressional Republican thing. They didn’t call for it. They didn’t want it. They didn’t like it. If real Republicans had been put on the committee, they would have been put into the unenviable position of having to defend the president and his conduct in the days following the election. Trump might feel a bit uncomfortable with the fact that Republicans on the dais aren’t rushing to defend him. Good. He should feel uncomfortable. He acted stupidly, although not criminally.
4) The hearings haven’t changed the story. Everybody knows the basic narrative. Trump thought he won the election. He was angry when he was declared the loser. He did everything he could to get former Vice President Mike Pence to throw the election to the House, where he thought he could eventually win. And he had a big rally on the National Mall, where a bunch of people stormed the Capitol and ransacked the place. Sure, there are ample conspiracy theories that are titillating but probably won’t be pursued. But so far, the committee has only followed the already established storyline that is not all that interesting. We already know all of this. Keeping Republicans off the committee hasn’t been as risky as it might have been had the Democrats been able to find something more interesting to report on.
5) Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) has disqualified herself from the Republican leadership. Letting Cheney become the lead Republican inquisitor (by removing all the Republicans McCarthy selected) means she will no longer be a competitor to McCarthy for the Speaker’s office. It is unlikely that she will even be reelected. Before she went on this electoral kamikaze mission, Cheney was seen as a rising star and a likely candidate for Speaker. Those days are long gone.
6) Pelosi’s precedent could come in handy some day. Democrats, especially Senate Democrats, are exceptionally good at establishing procedural precedent that is later exploited by Republicans to achieve their goals. We wouldn’t have so many conservative judges if then-Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) hadn’t pursued the nuclear strategy on non-Supreme Court judicial filibusters in 2013. It is not clear when and if McCarthy will use the strategy deployed by Pelosi to stack both sides of a select committee to achieve a desired result, for the first time in 232 years of House history. And right now, it serves him well to decry the stunning breach of congressional decorum. But revenge is best served cold, and who knows, once a precedent is set, a precedent is set.
Feehery is a partner at EFB Advocacy and blogs at www.thefeeherytheory.com. He served as spokesman to former House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.), as communications director to former House Majority Whip Tom DeLay (R-Texas) and as a speechwriter to former House Minority Leader Bob Michel (R-Ill.).