House Minority Whip Steve Scalise turned to history Tuesday to defend the GOP’s decision to appoint three members to the Jan. 6 select committee who voted against certifying the results of the 2020 presidential election.
Mr. Scalise told reporters on Capitol Hill that Democrats have a short memory on election challenges, saying the shoe was on the other foot not so long ago.
“First of all, I would imagine there are Democrats that have objected to election results,” the Louisiana Republican said after a reporter pressed him on the picks’ objections to the 2020 results. “If you look at Jan. 6 in 2005, for example, a majority of Democrats did not vote to certify the state of Ohio, which would have, by the way, flipped the election to John Kerry if they were successful.”
Mr. Scalise was alluding to a formal challenge a small group of Democratic lawmakers launched 16 years ago against the final Ohio vote tallies.
The thrust of that effort — “irregularities” in the vote and worries about flaws in the system — echo some of the concerns GOP lawmakers aired before 147 Republicans in the House and six Republicans in the Senate voted to object to certifying the 2020 results.
Their objections came shortly after a pro-Trump mob stormed the U.S. Capitol to protest President Biden’s victory.
The 2005 challenge, however, proved far less popular: 31 Democrats in the House and a single Democrat in the Senate supported the push.
Mr. Scalise’s response came a day after House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy tapped Reps. Jim Banks of Indiana as the party’s ranking member on the select committee.
Mr. McCarthy filled out the GOP committee spots with Reps. Jim Jordan of Ohio, Rodney Davis of Illinois, Kelly Armstrong of North Dakota, and Troy Nehls of Texas.
Mr. Banks, Mr. Jordan, and Mr. Nehls voted against certifying election results.
The appointments faced backlash from Democrats, among the chattering class in Washington and across social media, where Mr. McCarthy was accused of trying to sabotage the investigation.
“The American people, the folks who serve here in the Capitol Police, deserve better,” Sen. Chris Coons, Delaware Democrat, said on CNN. “These choices in terms of who to put on this commission by the ranking member in the House are truly disappointing.”
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat, has the power to ax Mr. McCarthy’s picks for the committee, which has its first hearing scheduled early next week.
Earlier this month, Mrs. Pelosi tapped Rep. Bennie Thompson of Mississippi and Zoe Lofgren of California to serve as the probe’s Democratic co-chairs.
Ms. Pelosi’s picks also included: Democratic Reps. Pete Aguilar of California, Stephanie Murphy of Florida, Jamie Raskin of Maryland, and Elaine Luria of Virginia, and Republican Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming.
Mr. Raskin was among the seven House Democrats that sought to object to 2016 electoral voters from several states. That effort died after the tiny faction failed to get a Democrat in the Senate to join the effort.
On Tuesday, Mr. Aguilar told reporters he is giving the Republicans on the committee the benefit of the doubt - at least for now.
“We’re going to accept that everyone in that room was guided by seeking the truth of what happened,” Mr. Aguilar said. “That’s my presumption until proven otherwise.”
“So while I don’t agree with some of the votes that my colleagues have taken with respect to that, we’re going to ensure that this is a nonpartisan exercise,” he said.
Officers from the U.S. Capitol Police and the D.C. Metropolitan Police Department are set to testify at the committee’s first hearing on July 27.
Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, chair of the House Democratic Caucus, said Republicans on the committee will have the chance to show whether they truly “back the blue.”
“They’ll have an opportunity at the first hearing to keep it real, and to demonstrate that those words are not just rhetorical, but they really plan to support Capitol Police officers who defended our Democracy at great personal cost to themselves on January 6,” the New York Democrat said.
Mr. McCarthy, California Republican, announced his picks days after traveling to New Jersey to meet with Mr. Trump.
Mr. Trump and his allies have waged a relentless war on the election results, insisting it was stolen, and opposing investigations into the Jan. 6 riot.
Democrats have criticized Republicans for refusing to take a more public stand against Mr. Trump’s allegations, which have been slapped down in the courts.
Democrats say Republicans are more interested in showing fealty to Mr. Trump than they are in slapping down the “big lie” about the election that is undermining faith in Democracy.
The House voted weeks ago to create the selection committee to investigate the attack, despite opposition from all but two House Republicans: Rep. Adam Kinzinger of Illinois and Ms. Cheney.
Ms. Cheney was ousted from her position in GOP leadership earlier this year after she refused to tone down her criticism of Mr. Trump and his stolen election claims.
Mr. McCarthy and GOP leaders, meanwhile, continue to question Ms. Pelosi’s motivation for establishing the committee. They argue that the scope of the investigation should extend to other political violence.
“Ultimately what should be the mission of this commission?” Mr. Scalise said. “Again, justice should be carried out and the focus should be on facts, not on politics,” Mr. Scalise said Tuesday. “It seems like Speaker Pelosi has been more interested in politics with this.”
“So that is very unfortunate,” he said.