(The Hill) — The House committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol is set to dissolve no matter who wins Tuesday’s midterm elections — but a GOP takeover of the House leaves a near zero chance it will be revived. The panel, like all other select committees established this Congress, will sunset with the start of the next Congress in January.
Republican leaders such as House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (Calif.) have given no sign they intend to keep the committee that has been a thorn in their side and prompted former President Donald Trump to criticize the GOP’s decision to boycott it.
In a speech ahead of the committee’s summer slate of hearings, McCarthy dismissed the panel as “the most political and least legitimate committee in American history.” “It has used congressional subpoenas to attack Republicans, violate due process and infringe on the political speech of private citizens,” he said in a June address.
“It has permanently damaged the House and divided the country. It’s a smokescreen for Democrats to push their radical agenda.” The panel’s current members have been quick to acknowledge the Cinderella effect for their committee. “At the end of a Congress … our carriage turns into a pumpkin. So we’ve got no wheels after that. So we’ve got to make everything happen this year,” Rep. Jaime Raskin (D-Md.) told reporters earlier this year.
Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) earlier this week lashed out at Republicans for opposing an independent commission that could have pursued an investigation without any of the scheduling strictures of Congress. “The idea was killed by Kevin McCarthy and then Mitch McConnell in the Senate,” Cheney said at an event moderated by PBS’s Judy Woodruff, noting that 35 House Republicans voted for the measure. McConnell (Ky.) is the Senate GOP leader.
“If we had that bipartisan outside commission, the investigation would be able to go on beyond the election. But we’ll complete our work and produce a report based upon our work today,” she said. If Democrats win, they could reinitiate the panel, which has unearthed new details about the riot and has made clear it continues to gather evidence.
Former Trump White House aide Hope Hicks recently appeared before the panel’s investigators, and the committee recently sought interviews with a number of Secret Service personnel after receiving more than a million electronic communications from the agency — far beyond what the panel requested. If Democrats maintain control of the House, carrying over a select committee conducting an investigation wouldn’t be unprecedented. Republicans did so with its Benghazi committee, extending the 2012 investigation into the end of 2014. But even if Democrats did so, there’s another mechanism to cap the committee’s work: Its founding resolution disbands the panel 30 days after it issues its final report.
Members of the panel have suggested they may release an interim report on their findings in an effort to not prematurely close out their work. “When the final report is released, the committee is dissolved,” Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) said in July. “And so, so long as information continues to come in, we want to avoid that result. We don’t want to prematurely cut off witnesses who want to be heard.”
The lame-duck session could still be a busy time for the panel. The committee will be preparing its final report and is slated to offer its legislative recommendations for how to prevent future insurrection attempts. Some Democratic lawmakers have suggested the party needs to seize on the two-month window, lest the GOP take over. “We actually need to get it done,” Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-Ariz.) told The Hill in October. “Because if the House flips, which I don’t think it will, but if it does, Kevin McCarthy’s not going to do anything to protect this country.”