McCarthy: Maybe Liz Cheney is closer to Pelosi than she is to us

Undoubtedly true — at least on the subject of whether the riot at the Capitol should be investigated, even if it makes House Republicans uncomfortable.

On everything else? I’d say she’s closer to McCarthy than Pelosi:

McCarthy held his weekly presser this morning and was asked about Cheney’s appointment to the January 6 select committee, of course. Committee assignments are supposed to be made by a member’s caucus, he said. It’s all but unheard of for the leader of one conference to appoint someone from the other conference. Which is true, but the select committee isn’t standard partisan fare like a tax committee is, say. It’d be nutty for a tax-hiker like Pelosi to appoint a tax-cutter from the GOP. Cross-conference appointments usually make zero sense due to ideological differences.

There shouldn’t be sharp ideological differences about an attack on the Capitol aimed at disrupting a presidential election, though. So the question isn’t why Pelosi would appoint a Republican like Cheney who’s been adamant about finding out how January 6 came together. The question is why McCarthy won’t appoint Cheney himself.

Hours before this news conference, word leaked that he told Republican freshmen yesterday that anyone who accepted an assignment from Pelosi to the select committee should go ahead and get all their committee assignments from her. That was foolish since it meant he’d be in an awkward spot if Cheney or Adam Kinzinger defied him by joining the select committee anyway. Would he back down from his threat after Cheney called his bluff or would he follow through and end up besieged with questions about why he hasn’t taken away Paul Gosar’s committee slots yet?

Sounds like he’s backing down. I never threatened anyone’s committee assignments, he said at the press conference — in the course of noting again how unprecedented it is for a member to accept a cross-conference appointment:

Cheney also appeared this morning with the Democrats on the select committee and confirmed that McCarthy hadn’t threatened her personally:

She’s all but certain to lose her primary next summer at this point, one would think, in which case he might as well just bite his lip and tolerate her for another 18 months. Then he’ll be Speaker and won’t have to worry about her anymore.

…unless the select committee’s investigation subpoenas him and squeezes testimony out of him that ends up imperiling his leadership position. But what are the odds of that?

Anyway, McCarthy’s strategy in questioning whether Cheney is “closer” to Pelosi than to the Republican caucus is obvious. The party leadership knows that the insurrection is a bad subject for the GOP and is nervous about what the investigation might uncover with respect to some of their own members. They want to be able to scoff at anything that comes out as partisan nonsense, which is also why Senate Republicans blocked the creation of a bipartisan January 6 commission. (“Hard to argue that a [select committee] will definitely and obviously be partisan and biased if you literally have to threaten members of your party to not participate in it. It sounds like you’re trying to cause that bias, not combat it,” notes Noam Blum of McCarthy’s gambit with committee assignments.) Cheney’s addition to the select committee makes that trickier. So McCarthy’s going to do what he can to portray her as a de facto Democrat even though her voting record is as conservative as his is.

The next time Cheney’s asked if she’s closer to Pelosi than to McCarthy, she should say, “Which McCarthy? McCarthy now or McCarthy on January 13?”