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McCarthy, Other GOP Reps, Receive Historic Subpoenas From January 6 Panel
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McCarthy, Other GOP Reps, Receive Historic Subpoenas From January 6 Panel

Plus: Work to reconcile bills on China competition begins, and more Republicans may be tiring of supporting Ukraine’s war efforts

Happy Friday—yet another rainy weekend is approaching here in D.C., which means the Wilt family will likely be watching far too many episodes of the Wiggles over the next couple of days. (Toot toot, chugga chugga, big red car.)

Jan. 6 Panel Subpoenas Lawmakers

The select committee investigating the January 6 attack on the Capitol, facing an end of the year deadline before Republicans are likely to retake the House, has taken a new plunge: The panel announced yesterday it has subpoenaed five Republican lawmakers believed to have relevant information about the events leading up to and on that day. 

The subpoenas target GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy and Reps. Scott Perry, Mo Brooks, Andy Biggs, and Jim Jordan. The move comes after those members declined committee requests to testify.

“Before we hold our hearings next month, we wished to provide members the opportunity to discuss these matters with the committee voluntarily,” said Rep. Bennie Thompson, who chairs the committee. “Regrettably, the individuals receiving subpoenas today have refused and we’re forced to take this step to help ensure the committee uncovers facts concerning January 6. We urge our colleagues to comply with the law, do their patriotic duty, and cooperate with our investigation as hundreds of other witnesses have done.”

It’s an unprecedented move, and it could lead to a difficult decision on whether to pursue a full House floor vote on holding the Republicans in contempt of Congress. 

Committee members on Thursday didn’t reveal whether such a vote is likely if the lawmakers refuse to comply with the subpoenas. The panel has recommended contempt of Congress charges—which can lead to up to a year in prison and a fine of $100,000—for several other witnesses during their investigation.

“My view on the committee has not changed,” McCarthy told reporters after news of the subpoenas broke. “They’re not conducting a legitimate investigation. It seems as though they just want to go after their political opponents.”

McCarthy is of interest because he spoke with former President Donald Trump on the phone during the attack and urged him to tell his supporters to stand down, according to GOP Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, who has said she spoke with McCarthy about the call at the time.

Recent reports by the New York Times’ Alex Burns and Jonathan Martin about McCarthy’s comments in the aftermath of the attack may also be of interest to the committee: He told members Trump acknowledged bearing “some responsibility” for the disastrous events. 

“I asked him personally today: Does he hold responsibility for what happened?” McCarthy said. “Does he feel bad about what happened? He told me he does have some responsibility for what happened and he’d need to acknowledge that.”

The other members subpoenaed this week were involved in “stop the steal” efforts leading up to January 6. And Rep. Mo Brooks has recently told reporters that Trump has persisted in asking him this year to “rescind” the 2020 election and help install him as president. 

Rep. Liz Cheney, the Republican who co-chairs the January 6 committee, told reporters Thursday the subpoenas were necessary.

“The unprecedented nature of the attack, and the fact that we have members who have information about an attack on our body and have been unwilling to come and talk to the committee is a very serious and grave situation,” Cheney said. “This determination to issue these subpoenas was not a decision that the committee made lightly, but it is absolutely a necessary one.”

China Competition Conference Commences

This week saw the official kick-off of the first conference committee of the 117th Congress. Over the coming weeks, the 107 members of the China competition bill conference committee will work to hammer out legislation intended to boost American manufacturing and research initiatives. 

Most of the process will happen privately, but lawmakers from both chambers met in the public view this week to make their opening remarks. Members largely emphasized their priorities, ranging from boosting semiconductor manufacturing to investing in solar production within the United States. Key points of tension were apparent: The Senate and House bills have different trade policy provisions, and lawmakers will have to decide which ones are worth prolonged debates and which can be sacrificed. This bill is one of the few packages expected to pass this closely divided Congress, and members will work to keep their own items in it.

Beyond dipping into policy details, members on Thursday also delivered big-picture geopolitical views on the need for a finished competitiveness bill to emerge from the conference committee.

“I think we all share a common view that we are entering a new and more competitive era with China and that the United States must develop and deploy policy and strategy that is equal to the enormity and urgency of the challenge,” Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Menendez said. 

“China today, led by the Communist Party and propelled by Xi Jinping’s hyper-nationalism, is unlike any challenge that we have faced as a nation before,” he added. “This is a moment that demands a strong strategic response that can begin to rebuild American leadership and invest in our ability to outcompete the [People’s Republic of China] in the generation ahead.”

Sen. Jim Risch, the top Republican on the Foreign Relations panel, said the legislation will need to be concrete, actionable, and “truly bipartisan” to be effective. Rep. Mike McCaul, the top Republican on the House Foreign Relations Committee also raised concerns, saying the House bill was too partisan.

“This could be the most important legislation passed in this Congress,” McCaul said.

Human rights advocates also saw some important signs of resolve from House members who look willing to fight for key provisions that weren’t in the Senate bill. Among those: Legislation to help Uyghurs and other ethnic minorities fleeing China’s genocide in Xinjiang.

House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Gregory Meeks pointed to that bill, as well as provisions to help Hong Kongers, as items he will work to include.

Rep. Ted Deutch, the Florida Democrat who sponsored the Uyghur refugee bill, also pledged to “work with my colleagues on the committee to ensure these important provisions are included in the final package.”

“Competing with China requires a strong defense of our values,” Deutch said.

Per a count by Politico’s Gavin Bade, 90 lawmakers spoke at the first meeting of the conference committee on Thursday. (That’s pretty impressive attendance.) The meeting lasted more than four hours. It’s available to watch here.

Are House Republicans Tiring of the War?

The House passed a $40 billion Ukraine aid package on Tuesday in a 386-57 vote, the latest round of military assistance to make its way through Congress since Russia launched its unprovoked and brutal war in Ukraine in late February.

Lawmakers from both parties have largely been in agreement on the congressional response to the war, but the vote this week saw more Republicans breaking away than prior votes. All 57 votes against the aid bill came from Republicans. They had varied reasons for doing so, but it revealed new rifts in the GOP’s appetite for prolonged involvement in the war.

In recent weeks, a small but vocal contingent of non-interventionist Republicans has opposed a few Ukraine-related measures, including one ending normal trade relations with Russia and another making it easier for President Joe Biden to send military assistance to Ukraine. Those vote counts usually hovered around 10 members, including the usual suspects like Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene and Thomas Massie. But this week, that contingent grew.

Some members, including Greene, pointed to an unrelated shortage of baby formula in the United States as their reason for opposing the bill. She said she’s pleased that more House Republicans seem to be exercising skepticism of Ukraine-related legislation. (The vote elicited tension within the conference: Greene and Rep. Dan Crenshaw feuded on Twitter about it, with Crenshaw suggesting Greene is pursuing a gig on Russian state television.)

Other Republicans, like Texas Rep. Chip Roy, took issue with the timing of the vote.

“I haven’t had a chance to review the bill. My staff is poring over the pages trying to see what’s in it,” Roy said on the House floor earlier this week. “Why don’t we actually have a debate on the floor of the people’s House, instead of the garbage of getting a $40 billion bill at 3 o’clock in the afternoon?”

The list of Republicans who opposed the bill included high-profile members such as Rep. Jim Banks, who chairs the Republican Study Committee, and Rep. Mike Johnson, vice chair of the House GOP conference.

As my colleagues Audrey and Charlotte wrote recently, non-interventionist foreign policy stances are playing a large role on the campaign trail this year. This week’s vote may have just been a perfect storm of timing that aggravated Republicans and a large price tag they couldn’t get behind. Or it could be indicative of something more.

“We’ve entered a world that is different than what we thought. Post-Cold War Russia and China are aggressively pushing to shape the world the way they want to—what should the U.S. do about that?” Democratic Rep. Adam Smith, chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, said in a recent interview with The Dispatch. “The idea that we can just hide over here in between the oceans, as it were, and not be impacted by that, I think is wrong, but we’re going to have that debate.”

Of Note

Haley Wilt is a former associate editor for The Dispatch.

Audrey is a former reporter for The Dispatch.