Republican House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy called GOP Reps Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger “Pelosi Republicans” after they agreed to serve on the select committee looking into the 6 January insurrection.
Mr McCarthy pulled all his nominees to the committee after Speaker Nancy Pelosi rejected two of them, Reps Jim Jordan and Jim Banks.
When asked if he would punish Ms Cheney and Mr Kinzinger, the House GOP Leader said “we’ll see”.
When asked when he last spoke to the anti-Trump Republicans, he told The Daily Mail: “Couldn’t tell you”.
Some Republicans in the House want Mr McCarthy to penalise the duo for accepting Speaker Pelosi’s invitation to serve on the select committee. It was established after the Republicans rejected a proposal to create a 9/11-style independent commission to look into the Capitol riot perpetrated by a pro-Trump mob.
Ms Cheney told Politico that Mr McCarthy’s words were “pretty childish”.
“We’ve got very serious business here. We have important work to do,” she said.
Both Mr McCarthy and Ms Pelosi were in the Rose Garden at the White House on Monday, attending an event commemorating the anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, which was passed in 1990. While Mr McCarthy couldn’t be seen interacting with the speaker, he did speak to President Joe Biden following the event.
CNN reported that Mr McCarthy and Ms Pelosi had a tense phone call after she rejected Mr Jordan and Mr Banks from the committee.
“What you’re doing is unprecedented,” Mr McCarthy told the speaker.
Voices were raised during the call, according to the network, with Mr McCarthy suggesting that Ms Pelosi’s decision would be a problem for her later on.
Mr Jordan and Mr Banks were among the 139 Republican representatives and eight Republican senators who voted against certifying President Joe Biden’s victory in the 2020 election.
Ms Pelosi announced that Ms Cheney would join the committee earlier this month and added on Sunday that Mr Kinzinger would also be a part of the investigation.
Adding Republicans to the committee allows the Democratic leader to say that the committee’s findings will be bipartisan while Republicans other than Ms Cheney and Mr Kinzinger are likely to argue that the investigation will be a liberal hit-job on conservatives.
“She’s broken Congress. Then it just makes the whole committee [a] sham and the outcome predetermined,” Mr McCarthy told reporters at the White House on Monday.
The select committee’s first hearing is set to take place on Tuesday.
Members of the right-wing Republican Freedom Caucus are now calling on their leadership to remove Ms Cheney and Mr Kinzinger from their other committees.
“Supporting Pelosi’s unprecedented move to reject McCarthy’s picks was a bridge too far,” one Republican told CNN.
Ms Pelosi told ABC News on Sunday morning that she rejected Mr Banks and Mr Jordan from the committee because they would “jeopardise the integrity of the investigation”.
Both Ms Cheney and Mr Kinzinger voted to impeach Mr Trump following the insurrection on 6 January.
Mr Kinzingher said a “serious, clear-eyed, non-partisan approach” would be required to investigate the riot.
“Today, I was asked by the Speaker to serve on the House Select Committee to Investigate January 6th and I humbly accepted,” the congressman from Illinois said in a statement on Sunday.
“I’m a Republican dedicated to conservative values, but I swore an oath to uphold and defend the Constitution – and while this is not the position I expected to be in or sought out, when duty calls, I will always answer.
“I will work diligently to ensure we get to the truth and hold those responsible for the attack fully accountable,” he said.
Mr Kinzinger, 43, who has been in the House since 2011, has blasted his own party for its complete loyalty to Mr Trump.
“I think what I’m used to saying to any Republican that’s maybe kind of confused by the moment we’re in, is policy doesn’t matter anymore. It literally is all your loyalty to Donald Trump. As I’ve said before, this is something that ... echoes a little bit out of North Korea, where no matter what policy comes out, you’re loyal to the guy,” he told NBC’s Meet The Press in May.
Ms Cheney was removed from her post as the number three Republican in the House earlier this year because of her relentless criticism of Mr Trump and his lies about the election being stolen.
“Plenty of people [are] wondering the same things,” another Republican told CNN. “If they are accepting appointments from Nancy Pelosi rather than the GOP, haven’t they already effectively left? Perhaps they should ask Speaker Pelosi for committee assignments?”
“Speaker Pelosi’s rejection of the Republican nominees to serve on the committee and self-appointment of members who share her pre-conceived narrative will not yield a serious investigation,” Mr McCarthy said in a statement after the appointment of Mr Kinzinger to the committee.
“The speaker has structured this select committee to satisfy her political objectives,” he added. “She had months to work with Republicans on a reasonable and fair approach to get answers on the events and security failures surrounding January 6. Instead, she has played politics.”
Ms Pelosi told ABC News on Sunday that “other Republicans have expressed an interest to serve on the select committee”.
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