Mar 8, 2023 - Politics & Policy

Frustrated Republicans want to "move on" as far-right revives Jan. 6

Illustration of a hand in a suit holding the fast forward button on a remote pointed at a television with a scene from January 6th

Photo illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios. Photo: Victor J. Blue/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Some Republican lawmakers are bristling at the idea of spending another two years talking about Jan. 6 — viewing the renewed focus as part of a self-destructive streak undermining their agenda for the new majority.

What's happening: Each time Democrats or the press appear ready to move on, the insurrection is dragged back to center stage by the GOP's most influential voices.

Why it matters: House Democrats used their majority to ensure the roots, violence and consequences of Jan. 6 received maximum attention through carefully choreographed prime-time hearings.

  • When Republicans won power in the midterms, they earned the right to set the agenda and divert attention away from what polls have shown is a serious political vulnerability.
  • Instead — due in large part to the empowerment of the far-right — Republicans have helped ensure wall-to-wall coverage of the 2021 Capitol attack is again blanketing cable news.

Driving the news: One day after Fox News host Tucker Carlson's presentation of unreleased Jan. 6 footage drew bipartisan outrage, the House Administration's subcommittee on oversight launched a new investigation into the work of the Jan. 6 committee.

  • News also broke Wednesday that Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) will be leading colleagues in a visit to Jan. 6 riot defendants in the D.C. jail, where she has claimed the conditions amount to "civil rights abuses."
  • "There are some members of Congress that are planning a visit to the jail, and we're working with them on writing a letter requesting a day to go and take a tour," Oversight Committee Chair James Comer (R-Ky.) told Axios.

Behind the scenes: "It is a distraction," one House Republican told Axios, saying there is a "high level of frustration with rank-and-file members" about the focus on relitigating Jan. 6.

  • "I think the Republican base loves to hear about Jan. 6, but this is not a winning issue with swing voters," they added.

What they're saying: "For it to be released to a very specific conservative entertainer with a large conservative audience," Sen. Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.) told Axios, "it sort of just relitigates something that should be further in our rearview mirror rather than at the forefront."

  • "I'm ready to move on," Cramer said, "And, frankly, I wish they all would move on. You guys [in the press] can't even move on when they put the video on Tucker Carlson."
  • "It's in the past. We should be talking about the future. It's a mystery to me as to why people want to continue to obsess about that," said Senate Minority Whip John Thune (R-S.D.).

Zoom in: Even as they stood by McCarthy's decision and said they support releasing the tapes, some House Republicans hinted that they are less than satisfied with the idea of having to grapple with the Jan. 6 discourse once again.

  • "What I like is sharing the tapes out," Rep. Blake Moore (R-Utah) told Axios. "I don't like all this playing out in the press though. I don't trust our cable news networks anymore. I don't trust MSNBC. I don't trust that even Tucker Carlson would be objective on this."
  • "I just say, let it exist, go from there. We need to move on though. We need to move on," Moore said.
  • Rep. Don Bacon (R-Neb.) said he has outstanding questions about Capitol security failures but suggested it shouldn’t be the focus of the GOP’s investigative agenda: “We’ve had investigations on Jan. 6 for two years now. … We keep going back to it. I think we can move on.”
  • Rep. Kelly Armstrong (R-N.D.), a member of the GOP's erstwhile Jan. 6 shadow committee, said he is open to talking about related issues like pretrial release, conditions in federal prisons and Capitol security — but Jan. 6 "shouldn't be the No. 1 focus."

What's next: The new investigation of the Jan. 6 committee is part of a broader House Administration probe into security failures and post-Jan. 6 reforms, according to two senior GOP aides.

  • The probe, led by Rep. Barry Loudermilk (R-Ga.) — who was himself a target of the select committee — involves examining the 2 million select committee documents that House Administration now has custody of. The probe was first reported by CNN.
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