scorecardRep. Paul Gosar learned the hard way: supporting the insurrection has consequences in Congress
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Rep. Paul Gosar learned the hard way: supporting the insurrection has consequences in Congress

Raúl Grijalva   

Rep. Paul Gosar learned the hard way: supporting the insurrection has consequences in Congress
PoliticsPolitics4 min read
Rep. Paul Gosar (R-AZ) speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) on February 27, 2021.    Octavio Jones/Reuters; Samantha Lee/Insider
  • Representative Paul Gosar has supported the January 6 insurrection from the beginning.
  • He has since found that it's tougher for him to get things done in Congress.
  • Let this be a lesson to Republicans: undermining our democracy has consequences.
  • Raul Grijalva is the US representative for Arizona's third district.

When armed insurrectionists broke into the US Capitol on January 6, I had just finished speaking on the floor of the House of Representatives. My colleagues were debating a motion to reject the results of Arizona's election for president, which had been resolved in favor of President Biden.

I spoke against the motion - the challenge was not based on any evidence - and took my seat. I was followed briefly by Republican Rep. Paul Gosar, who has played a leading role in the insurrectionist cause from the beginning. He was, somewhat ironically, the last person to speak before security officials ordered an evacuation.

Just a few hours earlier, Rep. Gosar had challenged the certification of Arizona's electoral votes during a joint session of Congress, receiving a standing ovation of nearly 30 seconds from his House and Senate Republican colleagues for his efforts. That morning, he led a crowd of Trump supporters in chants of "Stop the steal" at the now-infamous rally near the Capitol, and tweeted a demand that Biden concede the race, concluding ominously, "Don't make me come over there."

Rep. Gosar has only doubled down since then. At a May 12 hearing of the Committee on Oversight and Reform, he called the insurrectionists "peaceful patriots" who have been maligned only because of their support for Donald Trump.

It's not unsurprising that his tune hasn't changed. Whatever you may think of his political sentiments, they are clearly genuinely held. But like all extremists, he should be prepared to accept the consequences of his actions, and now that his colleagues are starting to impose those consequences, he is deflecting and making excuses rather than confronting them honestly.

This came to a head on May 24, when a panel of the Natural Resources Committee, which I chair, held a hearing on a politically uncontroversial bill called the Public Lands Renewable Energy Development Act. As the name suggests, the bill - sponsored by Democratic Rep. Mike Levin - creates incentives and eliminates barriers to develop clean energy projects on certain federally managed lands. It has been a popular and bipartisan piece of legislation for years.

Rep. Gosar knows the bill would benefit his own constituents tremendously, and he had been its leading Republican cosponsor in previous sessions of Congress. Unfortunately, his name carries negative weight among his Democratic colleagues, and having him play a leadership role in this Congress would hurt the bill's chances of passage. As a result, Rep. Levin informed Rep. Gosar in mid-May that he could not serve as lead cosponsor of the bill this year and made it clear that this was a consequence of his role in the insurrection.

Rather than accepting this as a relatively small price to pay for his convictions, Rep. Gosar immediately introduced his own bill - with language identical to Rep. Levin's - and told a reporter this was happening because of his "vocal criticisms of the Biden administration and its focus on climate change as it relates to the use of federal lands." His own press release went so far as to suggest, disingenuously, that his bill would be the one discussed on May 24. It was not.

This is worse than crocodile tears. This is rewriting history. Rep. Gosar pretending on the one hand that a violent attack on the US Capitol is all much ado about nothing and, on the other, that he isn't facing pushback for his leading role that day, suggests that he isn't as ready to sacrifice for his cause as he wants his supporters to believe. If he is proud of his record, he should forthrightly say as much. Instead, we are seeing a deliberate effort to muddy the waters by a member of Congress who seems incapable of dealing with the real consequences of his actions before, during, and after January 6.

Those who try to sanitize what happened during the attack on the Capitol are free to do so, but outside their bubble, they have destroyed their credibility. Federal law enforcement agencies continue to make arrests in connection with a multitude of crimes committed that day. The big lie - that Donald Trump really won in the 2020 election - continues to wreak very public havoc, both in Arizona and elsewhere, and will unfortunately take a long time to die.

As a lifelong Democrat, I'm not in the habit of quoting Richard Nixon, but as he once observed, "The best and only answer to a smear or to an honest misunderstanding of the facts is to tell the truth." I have no doubt that Rep. Gosar continues to believe himself the victim of smears and misunderstandings. But he needs to remember that his colleagues were there that day on the floor of the House, heading for the exits at the very moment his supporters broke into the building because of the false and dangerous story he was telling.

It's time for him - and his like-minded colleagues who are similarly avoiding responsibility - to start telling the truth, not least of all to themselves. Their actions are unpopular, and with Democrats in the majority in Congress, there will continue to be consequences.