The bipartisan makeup of the Jan. 6 select committee took a big hit Wednesday when House Speaker Nancy Pelosi barred a pair of former President Donald Trump’s staunchest allies from taking part in the investigation, citing concerns about the “impact their appointments may have on the integrity of the investigation.”
Mrs. Pelosi said House Democrats were concerned that Reps. Jim Jordan of Ohio and Jim Banks of Indiana, a pair of conservative firebrands, would undermine the probe.
“With respect for the integrity of the investigation, with an insistence on the truth and with concern about statements made and actions taken by these Members, I must reject the recommendations of Representatives Banks and Jordan to the Select Committee,” the California Democrat said in her announcement.
It marked the first time Mrs. Pelosi blocked a Republican nominee to a committee.
“The unprecedented nature of January 6th demands this unprecedented decision,” she said.
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, California Republican, threatened to yank all five of his appointees from the committee if Mrs. Pelosi stayed the course. That would leave the panel with a single Republican: Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming.
Mr. McCarthy called Mrs. Pelosi‘s move an “egregious abuse of power” that would “irreparably damage this institution.”
“This panel has lost all legitimacy and credibility, and it shows exactly what I warned at the beginning of January that Pelosi would play politics with this,” Mr. McCarthy said at a press conference. “Pelosi has created a sham process.”
“Unless Speaker Pelosi reverses course and seats all five Republicans, we will not participate,” Mr. McCarthy said. “House Democrats must answer this question: Why are you allowing a lame-duck speaker to destroy this institution?”
Mr. McCarthy said House Republicans would carry out their own investigation and focus on why the U.S. Capitol was ill-prepared for the attack, which interrupted the certification of Joseph R. Biden’s electoral win over President Trump.
The political tit-for-tat unfolded as the panel prepared for its first hearing next week and days after Mr. McCarthy traveled to New Jersey to meet with Mr. Trump. The former president has opposed the investigation and continues to promote his claims of a stolen election.
House Democrats have pushed for months to start a special investigation into the storming of the U.S. Capitol, but they have encountered strong Republican opposition.
Mr. McCarthy and most other Republicans have argued that the special committee should expand the scope of its investigation to include other instances of political violence across the country and a separate attack on the Capitol grounds that left an officer dead.
To circumvent the opposition, House Democrats late last month passed a resolution creating a select committee with the power to hold hearings and issue subpoenas.
Rep. Adam Kinzinger of Illinois and Ms. Cheney were the only Republicans to vote in favor of the proposal.
The committee was supposed to have 13 members: eight chosen by Mrs. Pelosi and five by Mr. McCarthy. The resolution gave Mrs. Pelosi veto power over Mr. McCarthy’s picks.
The list of appointees Mrs. Pelosi rolled out several weeks ago included Ms. Cheney, who was stripped of her House Republican leadership post in May after she refused to tone down her criticism of Mr. Trump and his promotion of the “big lie.”
On Wednesday, Ms. Cheney defended Ms. Pelosi‘s decision. “At every opportunity, the minority leader has attempted to prevent the American people from understanding what happened,” she said.
Ms. Cheney said Mr. Jordan could be a material witness to events that led to the attack and Mr. Banks “disqualified himself” by disparaging the investigation before it began.
“This investigation must go forward,” she said. “The idea that anyone would be playing politics with the attack on the United States Capitol is despicable and is disgraceful.”
Mr. McCarthy delayed his appointments before tapping Mr. Jordan and Mr. Banks this week, along with Reps. Rodney Davis of Illinois, Kelly Armstrong of North Dakota and Troy E. Nehls of Texas.
Mr. Jordan said at the press conference that Democrats are bent on having a select committee investigation because they want to shift attention away from rising crime in cities, the immigration mess on the U.S.-Mexico border and the negative impact inflation is having on hardworking Americans.
“They just want to be partisan,” Mr. Jordan said. “They just want to continue to attack the former president.”
Mr. Banks, chair of the Republican Study Committee, said Mrs. Pelosi was aware they would “fight back against her political games.”
“That is why she didn’t want us to participate in this committee,” Mr. Banks said. “It just goes to show this is entirely a political exercise on her part.”