Senate Minority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) speaks as Senate Minority Whip Sen. John Thune (R-SD) listens during a news briefing after a Senate Republican Policy Luncheon at the U.S. Capitol July 13, 2021, in Washington, D.C. Senate GOPs gathered for the weekly policy luncheon to discuss the Republican agenda. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON — U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said Tuesday the Republican National Committee erred in censuring two House GOP lawmakers for joining the select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol.
The Kentucky Republican rebuked the RNC for referring to the riot as “legitimate political discourse” in the censure resolution. McConnell said the events of Jan. 6 were “a violent insurrection for the purpose of trying to prevent the peaceful transfer of power.”
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His comments were the most critical by a high-ranking Republican official since the RNC voted last week to censure Wyoming’s Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger of Illinois for being the only two House Republicans to join the Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the United States Capitol.
McConnell said Tuesday that he doesn’t believe it’s the role of the national political committees to decide which Republicans the party will support and which it will cast aside.
“Traditionally, the view of the national party committees is that we support all members of our party regardless of their position on some issues,” he said.
McConnell said he does have confidence in RNC Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel, but added it’s “not the job of the RNC” to single out Republicans “who may have different views from the majority.”
Additional Republicans have come out against the censure’s language, including Utah’s U.S. Sen. Mitt Romney.
“It could not have been a more inappropriate message,” he told reporters Monday. “To suggest that a violent attack on the seat of democracy is legitimate political discourse is so far from accurate as to shock and make people wonder what we’re thinking.”
Romney said he exchanged some text messages with McDaniel, who also happens to be his niece, to “express his point of view,” but added that “she’s a wonderful person and doing her very best.”
Romney did add the censure resolution could have a negative impact on Republicans’ efforts to win back control of Congress during November’s midterm elections.
“Anything that my party does that comes across as being stupid is not going to help us,” he said.
Outside of Congress, Maryland Republican Gov. Larry Hogan criticized the censure vote.
“The GOP I believe in is the party of freedom and truth. It’s a sad day for my party — and the country — when you’re punished just for expressing your beliefs, standing on principle, and refusing to tell blatant lies,” Hogan tweeted.
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy took a different tone than McConnell during a brief interview with CNN Tuesday.
McCarthy said the RNC was referring to the six members the select committee has subpoenaed who were in Florida on Jan. 6.
The panel issued subpoenas in late January for 14 people from seven states who signed fake elector certificates, saying that their states elected Donald Trump even though Joe Biden was the legitimate winner.
McCarthy added that: “Everybody knows anybody who broke in and caused damage. That was not called for. Those people, we’ve said from the very beginning, should be in jail.”
In the RNC censure resolution, which was approved on a voice vote, the national party referred to the attack on the U.S. Capitol as “legitimate political discourse;” a line that has been widely rebuked by Democrats and held up as divisive by some Republicans.
“Representatives Cheney and Kinzinger are participating in a Democrat-led persecution of ordinary citizens engaged in legitimate political discourse, and they are both utilizing their past professed political affiliation to mask Democrat abuse of prosecutorial power for partisan purposes,” it states.
The House select committee Cheney and Kinzinger were censured for joining was formed last summer after efforts to establish a 9/11-style bipartisan commission to investigate the insurrection failed in the Senate. Just six GOP senators joined Democrats on a vote to advance the bill, falling short of the 60 votes needed for the measure to advance under the chamber’s legislative filibuster.
Afterward, Speaker Nancy Pelosi introduced and the House approved legislation to create the select committee. The measure gave her the ability to approve or reject the Republicans’ picks for the panel.
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy nominated North Dakota Rep. Kelly Armstrong, Indiana Rep. Jim Banks, Illinois Rep. Rodney Davis, Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan and Texas Rep. Troy Nehls in July. But Pelosi quickly rejected Banks and Jordan, citing concerns “their appointments may have on the integrity of the investigation.”
“The unprecedented nature of January 6th demands this unprecedented decision,” she said in a statement at the time.
McCarthy immediately pulled all five of his picks, saying that Pelosi’s decision to reject two “represents an egregious abuse of power and will irreparably damage this institution.”
Cheney and Kinzinger later joined the panel, which includes seven Democrats.
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