Rep. Rodney Davis, tapped for Jan. 6 panel, thrust in highest profile assignment of his House career

Said Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill., Davis will “be a fair arbiter. …I’ve never heard him defending what happened on Jan. 6; that’s good.”

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Rep. Rodney Davis, R-Ill., was recommended by House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., to be on the House select Jan. 6 investigation committee.

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WASHINGTON — Until now, Illinois GOP Rep. Rodney Davis has been able to effectively straddle the divide between Trump loyalists and the Republicans who speak out against former President Donald Trump’s election denial, conspiracy theories and his role in the Jan. 6 Capitol attack by pro-Trump insurrectionists.

That all may soon change. He may have to pick a side.

Davis is being thrust into the limelight in the highest profile assignment of his House career.

Republican House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., recommended Davis for the select committee probing the Jan. 6 violence.

Davis may emerge as the GOP voice of sanity and reality on the panel.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., has veto power over the 13-member panel — created with Democratic votes — and as of Tuesday night she has not decided if she will accept McCarthy’s five picks. The others are Reps. Jim Jordan of Ohio; Jim Banks of Indiana; Kelly Armstrong of North Dakota; and Troy Nehls of Texas.

Pelosi’s appointments to the panel included GOP Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming, who, like Illinois Republican Rep. Adam Kinzinger, is leading a crusade to break the iron grip denier Trump has on the party.

Davis, of downstate Taylorville, represents a district in central and southwestern Illinois. He is in his fifth term in Congress.

He’s a member’s member who knows and respects the House as an institution, having served as a staffer for now-retired Rep. John Shimkus, R-Ill., for 16 years before winning a seat of his own. Davis is the top Republican on the House Administration Committee, which deals with management of the House — and oversight of federal elections.

Davis was a co-chair of the Illinois Trump campaign but didn’t do much with it, since he was in a giant 2020 battle for his own reelection.

He beat Democrat Betsey Dirksen Londrigen 54.46% to her 45.54%. It was a rematch from 2018, where Davis almost lost his seat to her, squeezing by with 50.38% to her 49.62%.

In the Capitol on Tuesday, I caught up with Jordan — one of the nation’s most bombastic, combative, allergic-to-the-truth Trump defenders — and asked him about the panel. He did not disappoint.

“What the Democrats are doing is just one more attack on President Trump. We’ll be focusing on asking the fundamental question of, why wasn’t the security presence and security posture that day what it needed to be. It’s only a question the Speaker of the House can answer,” Jordan said.

In other words, Jordan is going to try to turn the tables and blame Pelosi — not the pro-Trump mob that invaded the Capitol nor the former president — for the Jan. 6 violence. Jordan, Banks and Nehls voted Jan. 6 to overturn President Joe Biden’s election.

I asked Rep. Mike Quigley, D-Ill., about Davis being on the committee. I noted that, on a different front, shortly after Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced his reelection bid Monday, Davis slammed Pritzker in a tweet, calling him “just another lying, failed politician. Let’s all work together in 2022 to make sure that Pritzker is a one-term governor.”

Said Quigley, “I think he’ll fit right in with Mr. Jordan.”

There has been speculation that Davis and Kinzinger may run for governor, especially if Democrats in Springfield draw new congressional districts unfavorable to them.

I asked Rep. Robin Kelly, D-Ill., — who is the Democratic Party of Illinois chair — if giving Davis a national stage would help him in a statewide run. Not, she said, if he “doesn’t approach it in an honest, independent, mind-not-made-up way.”

I talked to Rep. Danny Davis, D-Ill., in the Speakers Lobby, where on Jan. 6, Trump supporter Ashli Babbitt was shot and killed by police as she tried to break through the barricaded door leading to the lobby, adjacent to the House chamber.

I asked Danny Davis if he thought of Rodney Davis as a heavy Trumper. “Nope,” said Davis. “I think of him as a likeable individual who is serious about what he does.”

In May, Davis and Kinzinger were among 35 Republicans who voted with Democrats to create a Jan. 6 commission probing the Capitol attack. That measure died in the Senate, so Pelosi pushed ahead with the select committee. Not to be overlooked: In January, Davis introduced his own bill to form a 10-member commission to investigate and dig up facts surrounding the Capitol attack.

Kinzinger, on his way to a vote, told me Davis will “be a fair arbiter. … I’ve never heard him defending what happened on Jan. 6; that’s good.”

Davis, outside the House chamber, told me he was at a funeral Monday and didn’t have much to say yet about his pending appointment. The first hearing of the select committee is July 27.

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