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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

How Northwest Republicans in Congress responded after RNC called Jan. 6 riots ‘legitimate political discourse’

Violent protesters, loyal to President Donald Trump, storm the Capitol, Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2021, in Washington. Republican lawmakers from the Northwest want to move on from the events and were not eager to discuss a resolution passed by national party officials calling the insurrection "legitimate political discourse."   (John Minchillo)

WASHINGTON – In a week when some Republicans on Capitol Hill denounced a resolution passed by national party officials legitimizing the Jan. 6 assault on the Capitol, most GOP lawmakers from the Northwest sought to move past the controversial statement and focus instead on the upcoming elections.

At an annual meeting in Salt Lake City on Feb. 4, members of the Republican National Committee passed a resolution censuring GOP Reps. Liz Cheney of Wyoming and Adam Kinzinger of Illinois for being part of a committee investigating the Capitol riot, which the RNC accused of “persecution of ordinary citizens engaged in legitimate political discourse.”

Southwest Washington Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, one of 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach former President Donald Trump for inciting the mob, responded with a statement saying the Jan. 6 protest “left the realm of legitimate political discourse when it became a violent riot at the U.S. Capitol.”

While she opposed the creation of the committee Cheney and Kinzinger serve on along with seven Democrats, calling its composition “too partisan,” Herrera Beutler added she didn’t support censuring her fellow lawmakers “for attempting to uncover the truth.”

Other Republicans who represent the Northwest in Congress were not eager to address the issue.

Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Spokane and Reps. Russ Fulcher and Mike Simpson of Idaho didn’t respond to questions about their stance on the resolution, which RNC members approved by voice vote to condemn Cheney and Kinzinger and “to no longer support them as members of the Republican Party.”

Rep. Dan Newhouse, R-Sunnyside, said Republicans should focus on the future and called the RNC resolution “a distraction from where we should be spending our time.”

“We should be focused on winning the next election,” he said Wednesday at the Capitol. “If we truly have better ideas than the Democrats, then we should be making that case to the American people.”

While he emphasized not everyone who took part in the rally to demand Congress overturn the 2020 election results stormed the building, Newhouse – who also voted to impeach Trump for his role in the riot – said, “What I saw here in the Capitol was not political discourse.”

House GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy of California has repeatedly dodged questions from reporters asking whether he supports the censure resolution and, when asked Tuesday whether there was “legitimate political discourse” on Jan. 6, replied, “Yeah, everybody knows there was.”

On Thursday, a Seattle man who had pleaded guilty to punching police officers during the Capitol riot was sentenced to six months in prison. After his sentencing, the Seattle Times reported, Mark Leffingwell said he was “embarrassed and ashamed of myself for what happened.”

After calling in January 2021 for “a fact-finding commission and a censure resolution” over Trump’s role in the riot, McCarthy opposed the creation of such a commission and has avoided criticizing the former president as he eyes the speaker’s gavel, for which he would need the support of pro-Trump lawmakers if Republicans retake the House majority in November’s election.

Sharper criticism of the RNC resolution has come from Senate Republicans, including Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., who on Tuesday called the events of Jan. 6 a “violent insurrection for the purpose of trying to prevent the peaceful transfer of power, after a legitimately certified election, from one administration to the next.”

“The issue is whether or not the RNC should be sort of singling out members of our party who may have different views from the majority,” McConnell said. “That’s not the job of the RNC.”

Sen. Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, said Thursday he viewed the controversy as outside the domain of the Senate.

“This is a House issue and I think that the Republicans in the House are free, on whichever side of the issue they come down, to express their opinions,” Crapo said. “And that’s about as far as I’ll go.”

Idaho’s other GOP senator, Jim Risch, was more direct.

“I don’t want to get into that,” Risch said Wednesday , adding that he had more important things to do as he negotiated a bill to sanction Russia for threatening to invade Ukraine.

Republican leaders in Congress initially supported the creation of a bipartisan commission to investigate the violence of Jan. 6 and the events leading up to it, but when the proposal came up for a vote, both McCarthy and McConnell opposed it.

The House approved the commission with just 35 of 212 Republicans voting in favor – including Simpson, Newhouse and Herrera Beutler – but it died in the Senate when it failed to gain the support of the 10 Republicans needed to defeat a filibuster. Crapo voted against the commission and Risch did not vote.

In lieu of the commission, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., created a committee to investigate the Capitol riot. After McCarthy tried to appoint two Trump supporters to the panel, Pelosi rejected them and appointed Cheney and Kinzinger, who both continued to speak out about holding Trump accountable. Both have faced backlash from within their party, with Kinzinger choosing not to run for re-election and Cheney facing a Trump-endorsed primary opponent.