Indiana's 3rd District congressman's being named to a panel charged with learning more about one of the most harrowing moments in the nation's history should be good news.
Let's hope so.
Rep. Jim Banks, who represents northeast Indiana, was chosen as the top Republican on a committee to investigate the deadly Jan. 6 insurrection led by supporters of former President Donald Trump. Banks leads a powerful GOP caucus and is among five House members selected by Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy.
Banks is poised to play an outsized role as ranking GOP member on the committee, which is expected to begin meeting next week. An influential lawmaker seen within his party as a skilled messenger, the Columbia City Republican can be an important voice for his more than 700,000 Hoosier constituents as well as the nation.
A portion of a combative, four-paragraph statement from Banks indicates that is some of what he intends to do.
“... I will do everything possible to give the American people the facts about the lead up to January 6, the riot that day, and the responses from Capitol leadership and the Biden administration,” he said.
The comments come after Banks accuses Democrats of not studying “the hundreds of violent political riots last summer when many more innocent Americans and law-enforcement officers were attacked” and a swipe at House Speaker Nancy Pelosi for “solely creat(ing) this committee to malign conservatives and to justify the Left's authoritarian agenda.”
Republicans had chances to be part of a more bipartisan effort to look into the insurrection, which left five people dead and interrupted certification of President Joe Biden's win over Trump.
Banks was among most in the GOP who opposed creating a 13-member House committee in June. Democrats in the House wanted to put in place a panel to investigate, but Senate Republicans stanched that effort.
Pelosi later announced she would empanel representatives including Wyoming Republican Liz Cheney to investigate.
Three of McCarthy's other picks – Reps. Jim Jordan of Ohio, Kelly Armstrong of North Dakota and TroyNehls of Texas – also voted against the 13-member panel. The final pick, Illinois Rep. Rodney Davis, is the lone member of the group to support the panel's creation.
Banks, Jordan and Nehls also each voted to object to certification of electoral votes sealing Biden's win hours after a mob swarmed the U.S. Capitol, sending lawmakers including then-Vice President Mike Pence fleeing for safety. Before the siege, Banks took to social media to welcome “the thousands – maybe millions? – of supporters of Donald Trump here to Washington.”
Our congressman is an openly ambitious politician with a clear distaste for working with Democrats. Politico on Tuesday called his appointment by McCarthy an audition in a potential future play for the House Republican Conference chairmanship.
“(I)t's a chance to flex and prove his messaging chops before trying to move up the ladder next year,” the website says.
It can and should be so much more.
We encourage Banks to set aside his partisan ambition, consider his constituents and embrace the unique position in which he's been placed to help investigate fairly the events on one of the country's darkest days.