Washington Examiner: Jan. 6 committee could be final hurrah for Cheney and Kinzinger

The Jan. 6 select committee tasked with investigating the Capitol riot could be a last hurrah of sorts for the two most outspoken critics of former President Donald Trump in the House Republican conference.

Wyoming Rep. Liz Cheney faces a smattering of primary opponents for her at-large district who are outraged at her turn away from Trump. The former president is determined to crown a queen-slayer.

Illinois Rep. Adam Kinzinger also has a few Republican primary challengers. The more serious threat to his seat is Illinois’s redistricting process that could draw new district lines, essentially eliminating his current north-central district or tilting it Democratic enough to eliminate his chance of winning reelection.

Those obstacles mean there is a distinct possibility neither outspoken lawmaker will remain in office come 2023. With that reality in play, and some Republicans calling to remove the two lawmakers from their committee assignments, the Jan. 6 committee could be one of their last prime opportunities to make their stamps on Congress and the future of the Republican Party.

Kinzinger and Cheney were appointed to the select committee by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. In participating in the committee, they're going against the wishes of Republican House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, who pulled all five of his committee recommendations after Pelosi rejected two of his picks. McCarthy on Monday called the pair "Pelosi Republicans."

Cheney, stripped of her No. 3 leadership position earlier this year after Republican frustration about her criticism of Trump, will deliver an opening statement in the first select committee hearing on Tuesday morning.

As the Wyoming congresswoman takes a starring role in the committee, Trump is meeting with some of Cheney’s primary challengers this week (not including state Sen. Anthony Bouchard, who has raised the most grassroots money out of all of her challengers) to help him determine who to endorse.

But despite Republican frustration with Cheney and Trump’s hopes that Republican voters take his side in a revenge primary against her in a state he won by more than 40 points, Cheney still has a path to keep her seat.

Cheney is vastly outraising her opponents, bringing in $3.5 million in the first half of this year. A good portion of Wyoming voters who spoke to the Washington Examiner last month was open to sending Cheney back to Washington.

Her many challengers also face a kind of prisoner’s dilemma scenario that if there is not one clear alternative to Cheney, they risk splitting the vote so she wins re-nomination with only a plurality of the vote.

Kinzinger is in a situation with far less power to outmaneuver.

As a result of redistricting after the 2020 census, Illinois will lose one congressional seat, shrinking from 18 to 17. The Democratic-controlled Illinois state Legislature has authority over drawing congressional districts and will likely attempt to redraw the lines in a way that ousts at least one Republican.

If state Democrats in Illinois gerrymander aggressively enough, the current 13-5 Democrat edge in its House delegation could expand to 14-3. That would effectively cost Republicans at least two seats, while GOP legislators in other states push maps to expand their party's ranks in Washington and eliminate Democrats' narrow House majority.

“Just like you’ve heard rumors they’re going to draw me out, I’ve heard rumors I’m protected,” Kinzinger told reporters last month. “Nobody has any clue.”

Analysts expect a congressional seat to be eliminated in Chicago's exurbs and far suburbs, where Kinzinger’s district lies.

Kinzinger, for his part, has some experience overcoming redistricting. As a result of redistricting in 2012, Kinzinger faced the two-decade Republican Rep. Don Manzullo in an ugly primary fight featuring intraparty generational rivals. Fresh-faced Kinzinger, then in his early 30s, beat his silver-haired House Republican colleague, who is twice his age, 54% to 46%.

Despite being reliant on redistricting for his political future, Kinzinger is not going down without a fight.

He launched a leadership PAC called Country First, aiming to challenge some of the Republicans who have embraced Trump and “cast aside the conspiracy theories and the rage.” Allies of Kinzinger also started a separate super PAC called Americans Keeping Country First, supporting Republicans who voted to impeach Trump.

The original article and video coverage can be found on the Washington Examiner website here.