WASHINGTON — The far right House Freedom Caucus, loyalists to former President Donald Trump, on Thursday called for kicking Reps. Adam Kinzinger and Liz Cheney out of the House GOP because they joined the panel probing the Jan. 6 Capitol attack.
I wrestled with whether to devote a column to their news conference because, as I write this, there is no sign the House Republican leaders want to boot out at this time Kinzinger, from Illinois, and Cheney, from Wyoming.
But here I am, because Illinois freshman Rep. Mary Miller was part of the Freedom Caucus news conference outside the Capitol where her Illinois colleague was attacked, and that’s worth reporting. Miller, from the downstate city of Oakland, represents one of the state’s most heavily Republican districts.
When it was Miller’s turn to speak, she didn’t push for the GOP members to expel Kinzinger and Cheney from the organization all House Republicans are a part of, called the Republican conference, or even mention their names. She focused on blasting COVID mask mandates.
The Freedom Caucus is a group of about 40 members within the conference. They are among the strongest Trump supporters in Congress.
But Miller’s physical presence at the Freedom Caucus presser, where the other speakers condemned Kinzinger and Cheney, leads me to conclude she endorsed the demand for their ouster.
Kinzinger and Cheney are the object of House GOP scorn because they accepted the appointment of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., to the select committee probing the Jan. 6 Capitol attack by a pro-Trump mob. The House Democrats created the panel after Senate Republicans blocked the creation of an independent bipartisan Jan. 6 commission.
Pelosi tapped Kinzinger and Cheney after she used her veto power to nix two House members recommended by House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., the election deniers Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio and Rep. Jim Banks of Indiana. The Monday hearing — featuring the testimony of four law enforcement officers under siege at the Capitol on Jan 6 — proceeded in a somber, orderly fashion, which likely would not have been the case if the disruptive Jordan was on the panel.
Freedom Caucus Chair Rep. Andy Biggs, R-Ariz., said letting Kinzinger and Cheney remain in the caucus — where they would be privy to House GOP strategy sessions — would be as “if you had two spies sitting right there and you knew there were spies, but you couldn’t remove them. Right now, as long as they’re members of the Republican conference, they’re entitled to come to every meeting we have, hear every strategy.”
Said Biggs, “They chose to leave.” He’s wrong.
Kinzinger and Cheney did not choose “to leave.”
They are conservative Republicans. They want to reclaim their party from Trump, who played a role organizing the Jan. 6 protest that turned into the Capitol riot; election deniers and conspiracy pushers. They vote most of the time with the House GOP, not the House Democrats.
Their rare exceptions have been well noted: They are the only two Republicans to vote yes for the select committee and were two of the 10 who voted to impeach Trump for a second time.
In her first months in Congress, Miller has built a profile for herself, not on any particular Illinois or district issue, but as a pro-Trump partisan who is focused more on national than local issues.
In January, a few days after being sworn into office, she apologized after saying “Hitler was right on one thing” at a pro-Trump rally. When the state is remapped by Illinois Democrats, she may be thrown in a district with Rep. Rodney Davis, R-Ill. — that is, if he does not run for governor.
Davis was among the three GOP members Pelosi approved for the select committee. McCarthy pulled the plug on all five of his picks after the Pelosi veto of two of them.
Still, Davis, who has a deep respect for Congress as an institution — and is the top Republican on the committee that oversees management of the House — “does not support efforts to remove Rep. Kinzinger from his committee assignments or the Conference,” said Davis spokesman Aaron DeGroot.
“Adam is a friend to Rodney, but they disagree on the issue of Select Committee appointments and how the process has worked out.”
That’s it. Civilized disagreement. No revenge.
Kinzinger and Davis are pros with track records of legislating on local issues important for their districts. They understand that to get things done, you need relationships with the Illinois senators, both Democrats and, at times, your other GOP colleagues.
Miller, a farmer, is plowing quite a different path.