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Many of the nearly three dozen House Republicans who supported a bipartisan commission to investigate the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol are struggling to defend that vote on the campaign trail to Donald Trump-friendly electorates.
Of those who’ve faced primary voters so far, five were held to unimpressive victory margins, one was forced into a runoff, and one was defeated.
As a separate select committee on the insurrection prepares to hold a hearing Thursday on primetime TV, primaries over the next few weeks and in August will reveal to what extent votes for a commission that never made it out of the Senate weigh on a dozen other Republicans’ re-election prospects.
Rep. Don Bacon, who represents a swing district in Nebraska, said he received pushback because voters conflate the two investigative bodies, though he won renomination handily.
“There’s a lot of people back home who think if you voted for this bipartisan commission you voted for what we’re seeing right now,” he said.
Reps. Liz Cheney (Wyo.) and Adam Kinzinger (Ill.) were the only two Republicans to vote for H.Res. 503, which established the select committee investigating the attack. Both serve on the panel, with Cheney being the co-chair.
Of the 35 Republicans who voted to create the bipartisan commission (H.R. 3233), at least 10 won’t return for the 118th Congress next January. Seven aren’t seeking re-election, two have already resigned, and one, Rep. David McKinley (R-W.Va.) was ousted in the primary by Rep. Alex Mooney after Mooney’s campaign accused McKinley of supporting an “anti-Trump witch hunt to attack our president and our values.”
Another, Rep. Michael Guest (Miss.), unexpectedly took less than a majority of the vote in his primary Tuesday and was pulled into a June 28 runoff against Michael Cassidy, a former Navy fighter pilot who said he would introduce articles of impeachment against President Joe Biden on his first day in office.
Guest’s vote for the commission was the only time he’s departed from the Republican majority on a major vote in the 117th Congress, according to a Bloomberg Government review.
Guest and five other House Republicans who voted for a bipartisan commission were held to less than 60% of the vote in their primaries: French Hill (Ark.), David Valadao (Calif.), Mike Simpson (Idaho), Chris Smith (N.J.), and Dusty Johnson (S.D.).
Rep. Rodney Davis’ (R-Ill.) vote for legislation he helped write establishing a bipartisan commission is a wedge issue in his June 28 primary against fellow Rep. Mary Miller (R), who has Trump’s endorsement.
In a statement Thursday, Miller accused Davis of siding “with Liz Cheney, Adam Kinzinger, and Nancy Pelosi to vote yes on the January 6th ‘Witch Hunt’ investigation of President Trump.”
Davis said that had his bill become law, its effectiveness and due process protections would’ve been superior to the current select committee. The House Administration Committee’s ranking member announced Thursday that if Republicans win the majority and he takes the gavel of the Administration panel, he’ll investigate the select committee’s actions.
In a Wednesday interview, Davis defended his work to create a bipartisan commission by noting that those queried by the select committee “would probably wish for a more 9/11-style commission that would be truly bipartisan.”
Other House Republicans who supported a bipartisan commission and have yet to face primary voters include Tom Rice (S.C.), Dan Newhouse (Wash.), Jaime Herrera Beutler (Wash.), Peter Meijer (Mich.), and Cheney, who all also voted to impeach Trump.
“These are great candidates,” National Republican Congressional Committee Chair Tom Emmer (R-Minn.) said in an interview. “They’re proven campaigners. I believe that they understand their districts, and they’ll run the campaigns that they need to.”
Meijer recalled one constituent offered a “galaxy brain” critique that his support for the failed bipartisan effort led to the creation of the select committee as it’s constituted today.
“One of the challenges is that the more time that passes, the more perspectives harden,” Meijer said.
Rep. Maria Elvira Salazar (R-Fla.) said that in her district, “no one talks about Jan. 6.” They consider it simply Washington “politics.”
“We gotta leave that behind, and we have to move forward,” Salazar said in an interview. She said those who stormed the Capitol were “criminals” but “the country needs to move on and find new ways to cater to the needs of the American people.”
Rep. John Katko (R-N.Y.), ranking member on the Homeland Security Committee, wrote the bill to enact the bipartisan commission with Chair Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.). He said his main goal was to make the Capitol and the Capitol Police force safer. But Katko, who is retiring, said he knew the vote would likely become a factor in the midterms.
“That’s what brave votes are,” he said.