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Nancy Pelosi Rejects 2 GOP Picks For Jan. 6 Inquiry Committee

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

In a surprise move, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi rejected two of the five key Republican picks to serve on the select committee to probe the January 6 attack on the Capitol. A visibly angry House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy took direct aim at Pelosi, describing it as a political play.

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KEVIN MCCARTHY: This is the people's House, not Pelosi's House.

CHANG: Now McCarthy vows he will pull all five of his picks unless the speaker reverses course. To tell us more, we're joined now by NPR congressional reporter Claudia Grisales.

Hey, Claudia.

CLAUDIA GRISALES, BYLINE: Hey, Ailsa.

CHANG: All right, so tell us more about what happened here - Pelosi deciding to block two members from the select committee. What happened?

GRISALES: Yes, she rejected these two GOP picks. That's Representative Jim Banks of Indiana as the panel's top Republican and Jim Jordan of Ohio as a member because of their past statements and actions. We should note both voted against the certification of President Biden's election on January 6. And Pelosi said this is an unprecedented investigation that calls for an unprecedented decision. And Democrats lauded the move. For example, the committee's chairman, Bennie Thompson, said Pelosi had met GOP leaders more than halfway. But as you heard there, McCarthy was pretty upset talking to reporters after he learned the news from Pelosi. Let's take another listen.

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MCCARTHY: Never in the history of this institution for a select committee - and she admitted to me when she called me - have they ever done something like this.

CHANG: I mean, he's right, right? Like, this is the first time a speaker has actually rejected members to a select committee. Why now, you think?

GRISALES: In essence, this came down to a few words in the legislation creating this panel. It dictated that McCarthy would make these picks, quote, "in consultation with Pelosi," meaning she could veto his choices. And she warned us this was an option. Now, the thinking was this could be the case if McCarthy chose one of the more far-right-wing members of his party lobbying to get on the panel. This includes Georgia's Marjorie Taylor Greene. So overall, these choices did not appear to be in danger. For example, one of those picks, Rodney Davis of Illinois, is a top Republican who already oversees Capitol Police. And while this language to consult the speaker is the same wording that was used for the Republican-led select committee created to investigate the 2012 terrorist attack in Benghazi, it's another reminder of the extreme partisan times we're living in.

CHANG: Yeah. So what does all this mean for the investigation and for next steps for this panel?

GRISALES: Well, this creates a new level of uncertainty for the committee. But Pelosi can point out it's bipartisan because she appointed one Republican - that's Congresswoman Liz Cheney - to the committee. And Cheney, for her part, said today that at every opportunity, McCarthy has tried to block the American people from the truth of what happened, and she completely defended Pelosi's decision.

That said, many of the five Republican members McCarthy picked had already done prep work for the committee. For example, one of those appointees, freshman Representative Troy Nehls of Texas - he's a former chair from a Houston suburb - said he had spent, quote, "countless hours prepping," even showed reporters a binder he was using to study. But he and others instead attacked Democrats and said this was partisan. And McCarthy vowed that they will do their own investigation. So this will add to that - this heightened partisan pressures surrounding the probe. Davis, the Illinois Republican, touched on this. Let's take a listen.

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RODNEY DAVIS: And frankly, there are many unanswered questions about why this Capitol was so unprepared.

GRISALES: That said, Democrats are moving full steam ahead with their first hearing on Tuesday. They'll hear from several members of Capitol Police and the D.C. Metropolitan Police Department who were defending the Capitol that day.

CHANG: That is NPR congressional reporter Claudia Grisales.

Thank you, Claudia.

GRISALES: Thank you much. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.