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McNeely: Republicans criticized over Jan. 6 comments

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Dave McNeely

Dave McNeely

Two very conservative Texas Republicans in Congress are encountering significant heat — from the right wing of the GOP.

One is Sen. Ted Cruz, being jumped for referring to the Capitol insurrection on Jan. 6 of 2021 as “a violent terrorist attack on the Capitol” on the evening before its first anniversary.

That drew an attack from Tucker Carlson, host of a nightly talk show on the conservative Fox News network.

The other is U.S. Rep. Van Taylor of Plano, who represents the 3rd Congressional District centered in Collin County, north of Dallas.

Taylor’s sins included refusing to ignore in Congress that the attack, by people encouraged by then-President Donald Trump, had happened.

That has been a major factor in Taylor drawing four opponents further to his right contesting his re-nomination March 1 in the solidly red district. Back to him in a moment.

In Cruz’s case, he asked to be on Carlson’s TV show to apologize for his remarks the night before the anniversary.

“You called this a terror attack when by no definition it was a terror attack,” Carlson said. “That’s a lie. You told that lie on purpose, and I’m wondering why you did.”

Cruz said he had long used the term to describe anyone who attacks police.

“It was a mistake to use the word yesterday because the Democrats and the corporate media have so politicized it,” he said.

“The way I phrased things yesterday, it was sloppy, and it was frankly dumb,” Cruz told the conservative commentator. Cruz insisted he had misspoken.

But Carlson, who had harshly criticized Cruz on his show the previous evening, quickly reminded him that he had consistently said the same thing in appearances throughout the year since the attack.

Two days after the storming of the Capitol, Cruz’s office issued a statement saying, “The attack at the Capitol was a despicable act of terrorism and a shocking assault on our democratic system.”

On May 28, he said, “The Jan. 6 terrorist attack on the Capitol was a dark moment in our nation’s history, and I fully support the ongoing law enforcement investigations into anyone involved.”

Cruz, who was the last opponent to Trump to drop out in the 2016 GOP presidential primary, has been increasingly open about his interest in running again in 2024, noting that historically, “the runner-up is almost always the next nominee.”

Cruz’s six-year Senate term is also up in 2024. But under Texas law, he can run for both offices at the same time.

As for Congressman Taylor, he was considered a very conservative member of the Texas Legislature, where he served four years in the Texas House, followed by four more in the Texas Senate, before his election to the U.S. House in 2018.

He’s been considered quite conservative in Congress as well. But what irked some of his constituents was that he was one of just two Texas Republicans in the House to vote for establishing a bi-partisan commission to investigate the Jan. 6 insurrection.

The other one was Tony Gonzales of San Antonio, but he hasn’t drawn a crowded primary.

Although the proposed commission, which was to have five Democrats and five Republicans, passed the House, it didn’t pass the Senate. So it was dead. But Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi then formed a select House committee to investigate the attack.

Taylor voted against that committee, and says it was exactly the scenario he was trying to prevent by voting for the bi-partisan commission.

That doesn’t matter to his challengers, who figured even if it was bi-partisan, it would still have been a tool for Democrats to harass Republicans and possibly hurt them in the general election.

Another problem for Taylor is that the Legislature redrew his district in 2021 to make it even redder, and among his declared opponents is former Collin County Judge Keith Self.

Yet another problem Taylor has among some Republicans is that when it came time for Congress to certify the electoral college vote on Jan. 6 and confirm that Democrat Joe Biden won the election, the atmosphere had been poisoned for weeks by Trump and other high-profile Republicans claiming that the election was rigged.

Taylor was one of just 35 House Republicans, and just five from Texas, to vote to accept the results of the election. He said rejecting them would set a dangerous precedent.

He said the attempted coup “will haunt our nation for years to come,” and was “destructive to the democracy I fought to defend” as a Marine.

Nonetheless, Taylor later voted against the effort to impeach Trump for his part in inciting the riot.

We’ll see how this turns out.

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— Dave McNeely is an Austin-based columnist who covers Texas politics.

Today's Bible verse

“Consider it all joy, my brothers and sisters, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance.”

James 1:2-3

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