Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) is recognizable to millions because of her role as the top Republican presiding over the nationally televised hearings of the Jan. 6 committee, even as it soured voters in her district on her leadership.
“I say this to my Republican colleagues who are defending the indefensible,” Cheney said at the panel’s first hearing, striking a sober tone she held throughout. “There will come a day when Donald Trump is gone, but your dishonor will remain.”
Cheney’s efforts to hold Trump accountable for Jan. 6 likely contributed to her downfall, as irate Wyoming Republicans voted her out in Tuesday’s primary election, preferring her challenger, the Trump-backed candidate Harriet Hageman.
Where does Cheney’s loss leave Congress’ investigation of Jan. 6, particularly the work of the select committee she has helped steer?
A final report by year’s end
Much like Cheney herself, the committee is expected to disappear from Congress by January. The date the committee will pack up its tents is unknown, though the timing of its demise was written into the resolution that created the panel: 30 days from the issuance of a final report.
On “Meet the Press” last month, committee member Rep. Elaine Luria (D-Va.) said the panel would issue its report by year’s end, although she did not specify whether it would come before or after the November general election. “We’re not looking at it through a political lens of the midterm elections,” she said. “We’re looking at it though getting to the truth about the events of January 6.” The committee declined to comment for this story.
Unlike the House’s standing committees, temporary select committees organized under the rules of the House of Representatives must be reauthorized every two years, when a new Congress convenes.
The House resolution authorizing the Committee, passed in a near-party line vote last year, does not specify an expiration date. Instead, it says that it will issue a final report and that it “shall terminate 30 days after filing the final report.”
‘So many other things’ to investigate
While House Democrats may choose to pull at loose threads from the Jan. 6 investigation if they hold the majority, they are widely believed to treat the select panel’s final report as a bookend to the probe.
A GOP House takeover, the likeliest outcome according to pollsters, could actually lead to more investigations regarding Jan. 6 in the new Congress — with markedly different targets, including the Jan. 6 committee itself.
However, some GOP strategists believe House Republicans will have other priorities in 2023 and 2024.
“There are so many other things that the investigatory committees are going to want to focus on,” said Scott Jennings, who has advised Sens. Mitch McConnell and Mitt Romney and others. “Those things are going to be more important than using up the bandwidth you have to continue to rehash this particular item — with the possible exception of the security failures, which I actually think, depending on how it’s handled, could be a continuing source of bipartisan interest.”
The GOP currently has a roughly 8 in 10 chance of retaking control of the House in the midterm elections Nov. 8, according to FiveThirtyEight.
Jennings may be right, though Republicans are showing a significant appetite for rehashing the insurrection in friendlier terms than the select committee.
Currently, the House GOP is running its own, lesser-known investigation into the events of Jan. 6, and Republican lawmakers have called for more in the next session.
Rep. Jim Banks of Indiana, chair of the powerful Republican Study Committee, leads the current GOP-only effort. That work appears limited to a handful of letters Banks has sent to federal officials and to former White House counsel Pat Cipollone. Banks did not respond to questions for this story.
Banks’ quixotic effort got started after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi declined to seat two of Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy’s five picks for the Jan. 6 committee, Reps. Banks and Jim Jordan. Jordan was deeply involved in planning and orchestrating events of the 6th; both men spread false claims about the 2020 presidential election and voted to overturn the election results. After Pelosi’s snub, McCarthy rescinded all of his nominations for the committee.
McCarthy, who has refused to cooperate with the committee’s request for information from him earlier this year, did not respond to questions for this report.
‘I think we have to take over’
Some incumbent Republicans have pitched strategies for conducting Jan. 6-related investigations in 2023.
Rep. Rodney Davis of Illinois, the top-ranking Republican on the House Administration Committee, in June suggested that his panel could serve as the host of the GOP’s Jan. 6-related work.
“When Republicans once again hold the gavel and I am Chairman of the House Administration Committee, one of our first priorities is going to be launching a full investigation into Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the Select Committee’s circus,” Davis said in a statement at the time.
Though Davis lost his primary in June and won’t be returning to execute this plan in the next Congress, his committee’s second-highest-ranking Republican, Rep. Barry Loudermilk of Georgia, has also said he is interested in chairing the committee in 2023 and using it as a platform to probe Jan. 6-related matters.
Like Jordan and McCarthy, Loudermilk has come under scrutiny in the course of the Jan. 6 committee’s work for allegedly leading a tour group through parts of the Capitol complex on Jan. 5, 2021.
Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) has gone so far as suggesting that Republicans should keep the Select Committee active and use it to investigate Democrats. “I think we have to take over the top committee,” he said on his podcast early this year.
Gaetz has been a subject of the Jan. 6 committee’s probe. He allegedly attended a key meeting with Trump prior to the insurrection, spread election lies, and called for Trump to pardon himself and other members of Congress.
For her part, Cheney vowed to continue the work she had begun on the Jan. 6 panel.
“We must be very clear-eyed about the threat we face and about what is required to defeat it,” she said in a concession speech Tuesday night. “I have said since January 6 that I will do whatever it takes to make sure Donald Trump is never again anywhere near the Oval Office.”
Thanks to Dave Tepps for copy editing this article.