WASHINGTON — I’m outside of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office suite in the Capitol on Thursday and there was Republican Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming, standing with a group of Democrats. What a picture.
They are talking to the press about just being appointed to the new select committee to investigate the Jan. 6 Capitol attack by a mob of Trump supporters intent on stopping the certification of Joe Biden’s presidential election.
The scene Thursday was remarkable because of how Cheney got there — she was Pelosi’s pick to be on the panel. Pelosi and Cheney, I’m told, spoke Thursday before the group had its first organizing meeting with Pelosi in her office.
Cheney stood proudly with her Democratic colleagues on the committee — Reps. Bennie Thompson; Zoe Lofgren, Adam Schiff, Pete Aguilar, Stephanie Murphy, Jamie Raskin and Elaine Luria.
“I’m honored to be on this committee. We have an obligation to have a thorough, sober investigation of what happened leading up to January 6th and the attack on the Capitol on that day. So I’m honored to be chosen,” she said.
Cheney and Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill.,— two solid conservatives unafraid to speak the truth about former President Donald Trump — were the only two Republicans to vote with Democrats on Wednesday to create the select committee.
There was speculation Pelosi would ask one of them to be on the panel, since the Speaker said she was considering tapping a Republican.
Pelosi pushed for the House select committee after Senate Republicans doomed a bill that passed the House to form an independent commission.
Before I go on more about Cheney accepting a Democratic appointment — it’s just not usually done, especially for something this high profile — I want to make some observations about the implications of Pelosi NOT picking Kinzinger:
Cheney, a major target of former President Donald Trump, may be on shaky reelection ground in Wyoming. But Democrats would never pick up her seat.
Asking Kinzinger to join the committee — he said he was open to it — would have had potentially significant political impacts for Democrats, who now hold the House with only a few vote margin.
We won’t know for months what the new Illinois congressional map will look like; it may be that Democratic mapmakers in Springfield carve up Kinzinger’s district, since Illinois will lose a seat in 2022.
Scenario One: Kinzinger takes a Pelosi appointment to investigate the Jan. 6 attack. He runs from a new GOP district, where the primary basically clinches the seat. He is defeated in the primary by an election denying, conspiracy theorist Trumpite whose path to victory is paved with Kinzinger’s Pelosi connection.
Scenario Two: The best known Republican in Illinois accepts a Pelosi appointment. Since Democrats dissolved his district in the remap, Kinzinger decides to run in a new Democratic suburban district with lots of crossover voters — and wins because cooperating with Pelosi was seen as a giant plus. Losing a Democratic seat in Illinois could mean the difference over which party controls the House.
Anyway, suburban Democratic Reps. Bill Foster, Sean Casten and Lauren Underwood would rather not be running against Kinzinger — something Democrats in Springfield should consider when they draw the new map.
Now, back to Cheney.
At her Thursday news conference, Pelosi said, “We’re very honored and proud that she (Cheney) has agreed to serve on the committee.”
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, a Californian, as is Pelosi, trashed Cheney at his news conference, “I’m shocked that she would accept something from Speaker Pelosi. It would seem to me since I didn’t hear from her, maybe she’s closer to her than us, I don’t know.”
McCarthy led the effort to strip Cheney of her leadership position in order to keep in Trump’s good graces.
The select committee will have 13 members. Pelosi has the power to name all 13. Pelosi will appoint five of the members “after consultation with the Minority Leader.” That means Pelosi can block a fringer like Georgia GOP Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene.
McCarthy would not say if he will send Pelosi five names. “When I have news on this, I’ll provide the news.”
Cheney, who has already endured her colleagues dumping her from leadership, was asked if she was concerned about being reprimanded — that would be again — by GOP House members. Said Cheney, “Our oath to the Constitution, our duty, our dedication to the rule of law and the peaceful transfer of power, has to come above any concern about partisanship or about politics.”