Speaker Nancy Pelosi named Rep. Bennie Thompson chairman of a newly created House committee to investigate the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol. Credit: CQ Roll Call via AP Images

Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Thursday named Rep. Bennie Thompson chairman of a newly created House Select Committee to investigate the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol.

“I take the work of the committee seriously and look forward to making sure that the American people and people around the world know exactly what happened.” Thompson said.

The House voted 222-190 to create the committee on Wednesday. Just two Republicans voted with Democrats to support its formation — Reps. Liz Cheney of Wyoming and Adam Kinzinger of Illinois.

Pelosi moved to establish the committee after Senate Republicans blocked the formation of a bipartisan commission to investigate the January 6 attack.

The bill to create the bipartisan commission passed through the House in May with support from 35 Republicans, including Mississippi Rep. Michael Guest. However, the bill was blocked by Senate Republicans, including Mississippi Sens. Roger Wicker and Cindy Hyde-Smith. The final 54 to 35 Senate vote fell six votes shy of the 60 votes needed to prevent a procedural filibuster.

The unsuccessful bill, modeled after the commission that studied the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, was the result of bipartisan negotiations between Thompson and the Homeland Security Committee’s Republican ranking member, Rep. John Katko of New York.

“Our bipartisan, good-faith proposal was met with a filibuster. Now that Senate Republicans have chosen to block the formation of an independent commission, it falls to the House to stay the course and get the answers they deserve,” said Thompson. 

The earlier commission would have been composed of 10 members, with both parties appointing half of them. Proponents said it was necessary for Congress to acquire a full understanding of the deadliest attack on the Capitol since the War of 1812. 

For the House Select Committee, Pelosi has appointed eight of the thirteen members. House minority leader Kevin McCarthy can nominate the remaining five members “in consultation” with Pelosi, meaning the speaker could veto his selections. 

Pelosi also took the unusual step of making a Republican one of her appointees: Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming. Cheney has been the most vocal critic of former President Trump within the Republican ranks, and was ousted from her leadership post for criticizing Trump.

“Since January 6, the courage of my party’s leaders has faded. But the threat to our Republic has not,” Cheney wrote in a statement released prior to Wednesday’s vote. “On an almost daily basis, Donald Trump repeats the same statements that provoked violence before. His attacks on our Constitution are accelerating. Our responsibility is to confront these threats, not appease and deflect.”

McCarthy reacted angrily to Cheney accepting the position, and has not committed to nominating Republican members. Pelosi filling eight of the seats means they have a quorum, and the work of the committee can continue regardless of whether or not McCarthy participates.

“I was shocked that she would accept something from Speaker Pelosi,” McCarthy said. “It would seem to me, since I didn’t hear from her, maybe she’s closer to her than us.”

In addition to Cheney and Thompson, Pelosi appointed:

  • Representative Zoe Lofgren, Democrat of California and chairwoman of the Administration Committee;
  • Representative Adam Schiff of California, the chairman of the Intelligence Committee;
  • Representative Pete Aguilar of California
  • Representative Stephanie Murphy, Democrat of Florida and a leader of the centrist Blue Dog Coalition;
  • Representative Jamie Raskin, Democrat of Maryland; and
  • Representative Elaine Luria, Democrat of Virginia

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Will Stribling covered healthcare and breaking news for Mississippi Today.