by Lisa Mascaro | The Associated Press
WASHINGTON — When Nancy Pelosi raised a glass for Liz Cheney, it most likely didn’t sound like toast.
Democratic lawmakers and Republican congressmen gathered in the Speaker’s Office of the House as the group prepared for the first session of the committee investigating the rebellion at the Capitol on January 6.
Pelosi spoke of “grave responsibility” before him and raised his glass of water to Cheney, the former vice president’s daughter and the only Republican in the room.
“Let us salute Liz for her courage,” she said, according to a person familiar with the gathering, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the private meeting.
Politics often creates unlikely alliances, odd-couple arrangements between potential foes who drop their differences to engage on a common cause.
But the emerging partnership between Pelosi and Cheney is notable, if not surprising, as longtime political opponents join forces to investigate what happened the day former President Donald Trump’s supporters stormed the Capitol. Had raided.
Rarely has there been a meeting of minds like this – two of Capitol Hill’s strongest women, biased at opposite ends of the political divide – bonding over a shared belief that the truth about the rebellion must come out and those responsible must be held accountable . He believes nothing less than the functioning of America’s democracy.
“Nothing draws politicians together like a common enemy,” said John Pitney, a former Republican staffer and professor of politics at Claremont McKenna College.
The committee will hold its first hearing next week, and the stakes of the Pelosi-Cheney alliance have never been higher. The panel will hear testimony from police officers who fought Trump supporters at the Capitol that day. As some Republicans claim, officials portrayed the after-hours siege as a crowd of peaceful protesters, rather than a violent mob trying to prevent Congress from authenticating the election of Joe Biden.
As their new partnership unfolds, the flow of risks and rewards is uneven. Pelosi gains more politically from ceding Cheney to his side, giving the committee investigation a need to avoid seeing the big-name bipartisan ticket that it sees as a strictly political exercise.
For Cheney, who has already been ousted from the GOP leadership over his criticism of Trump, the political threats are far greater. She was one of 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach Trump over rebellion, and her willingness to speak out against her top aide, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, now alienates her on Capitol Hill. . They are facing setbacks from the ranks and serious primary challenges to get back to their homes.
“I’m horrified,” Sen. Cynthia Loomis, a fellow Wyoming Republican, said of Cheney’s actions.
Cheney, however, shows no signs of holding back on what she sees as an existential battle, not only for the party she and her family helped build, but also for the soul of the nation.
“The American people deserve to know what happened,” she said this week.
Standing on the steps of the Capitol, Cheney called the rhetoric coming from McCarthy “outrageous” and supported Pelosi’s decision to block two of her appointments to the panel because of her alliance with Trump.
McCarthy suggested that Cheney may now be closer to Pelosi than his own party, and he withdrew all Republican participation in the committee.
Pelosi and Cheney are hardly fast friends.
Despite their long lives in American politics, they never spoke to each other before this moment.
Pelosi won her first term as speaker during the George W. Bush administration, storming the White House extensively over the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and attacking then-Vice President Dick Cheney’s aggressive defense posture.
Liz Cheney took office in 2017 defending her father’s legacy, speaking boldly at one of his first news conferences in support of waterboarding’s enhanced interrogation technology, which was decried as torture under his watch. During Trump’s first impeachment, he lambasted Pelosi’s intentions in speeches.
While both are political royalty, Pelosi and Cheney have worked in parallel political universes for most of their careers. A generation apart, they employ different styles – Pelosi, San Francisco liberals, Cheney, Wyoming conservatives. The only thing they have in common is that both are mothers of five.
Yet when Pelosi called Cheney the morning after voting to establish a select committee to investigate the attack on the Capitol on January 6, both immediately understood the historic gravity of the moment.
Pelosi thanked Cheney for his patriotism and invited him to join the panel—a surprising moment, after the Democratic speaker appointed a Republican in a spot.
According to another person familiar with the conversation, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the private conversation, Cheney immediately acknowledged, responding that he was honored to serve.
Behind closed doors, those involved in the committee’s work see Cheney as a serious and creative member, hardly a Republican figure, but a firm participant in what he says should be a “quiet” investigation. It was Cheney who pitched the idea to former Republican Representative Denver Rigelman of Virginia to serve as an adviser to the committee that is under consideration, one of the people said.
The chairman of the January 6 panel, D-Miss, Rep. Benny Thompson, said that while he and others didn’t know Cheney very well, they found him “like every other member I’ve had a relationship with. And me.” I think it’s cool. I just wish we could have more relationships like this in this institution. We’ll get better.”
For Cheney and Pelosi, the commission and its findings are likely to define aspects of their careers.
Pelosi led the House to impeach Trump twice and is determined to hold him accountable for his actions on January 6 in what could be his final year as speaker.
Seven people were killed in the siege and aftermath, including Trump supporter Ashley Babitt, who was shot by police as she climbed through a broken window trying to reach the House Chamber. Three other Trump supporters in the crowd died of natural causes. Police officer Brian Siknick, who fought the rioters, died the next day. Two other officers took their own lives.
Cheney, who warned his party in an op-ed that “history is watching” at this moment, has vowed to seek a fourth term, but has an uncertain political future.
According to a new survey from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research, 60% of Americans say it is very or extremely important that investigations continue into what happened during the January 6 breach of the US Capitol.
The poll showed that 51% of Americans say they have an unfavorable opinion of Pelosi, although it is more favorable among Democrats. For Cheney, the results give him a more positive evaluation by Democrats than Republicans. Among Democrats, 47% say they have a favorable view of Cheney, while 46% of Republicans have an unfavorable view.
Pitney, the professor who worked for the elder Cheney in House leadership decades ago but left the Republican Party during the Trump era, said Pelosi and Cheney would be one for Bond history.
“It’s like one of those 1950s science-fiction movies where everyone unites on an alien invader,” he said. Pelosi and Cheney have “a legitimate common interest in getting to the bottom of the rebellion.”
Associated Press writers Marie Claire Jalonik, Alan Fram, Emily Swanson and Hannah Fingerhut contributed to this report.