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House vote on Jan. 6 commission again divides Valadao, McCarthy

Rep. David Valadao's vote Wednesday in favor of creating a commission to examine the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol has again put the Hanford Republican at odds with his Central Valley neighbor and sometime ally in Congress, Rep. Kevin McCarthy, whose vote against the measure helped set the tone for GOP opposition to the investigation as it heads for a vote in the U.S. Senate.

After Valadao's constituents took to Facebook to either thank or castigate him for his vote, he and McCarthy issued a joint statement Thursday afternoon emphasizing their commitment to cooperating on issues of importance to the Central Valley.

But their split over whether to create a commission on the riot continues a recent pattern in which Valadao has bucked McCarthy's party leadership on high-profile votes, including on the politically sensitive topic of immigration reform.

Observers have pointed out Valadao's majority-Democratic district and narrow electoral victory last year over former Rep. T.J. Cox, D-Fresno, demand he take a more moderate approach, whereas McCarthy's position as the House minority leader permits a more partisan response.

Valadao was the lone California Republican member of the House to vote in support of the National Commission to Investigate the January 6 Attack on the United States Capitol Complex Act, which passed the house by a vote of 252 to 175. It appears to face an uphill fight in the Senate after minority leader Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky announced Wednesday he opposed the measure.

In a written statement, Valadao explained his vote by saying that finding truth shouldn't be a partisan issue. He stated an independent 9/11-style review was needed to remove politicization and help the government ensure such events never happen again.

"Like many Americans, I was appalled by what took place on January 6th when a mob broke down windows and doors, assaulted police officers and threatened our very democracy," he wrote.

Valadao took a similarly independent approach in January when he voted in favor of impeaching former President Donald Trump, prompting local praise and resentment. McCarthy, a vocal Trump supporter, not only voted against the impeachment but joined 139 Republicans in objecting to Electoral College counts in Arizona and Pennsylvania.

Then in March, the two split again as Valadao voted to support, and McCarthy opposed, a farmworker immigration bill that among other things proposed a path to citizenship for people in the country without authorization.

McCarthy has cited several reasons for his opposition to creating a Jan. 6 commission, including what he called bad-faith negotiations by Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi. He said Democrats have ignored recent, violent uprisings in U.S. cities and that the proposed commission fails to examine "interrelated forms of political violence in America."

He went on to note more than 400 riot-related arrests, with expectations for more to come, and said there are already several government investigations focusing on the riots. The minority leader added he "fully supports" the prosecution of individuals found to have participated in the breach of the U.S. Capitol following a rally led by Trump.

Thursday's joint statement by the two congressmen asserted their votes are not based on what they think but what would best serve the constituents they represent. It said the two men have a close relationship working on various issues, and it highlighted their recent cooperation, along with that of other California Republican members of the House, on a forum on how to address the drought in California and the West.

"We look forward to continuing to work together to further the important priorities in the Central Valley that continue to be neglected by the Bay Area leadership of Pelosi and (Gov. Gavin) Newsom," the statement read.

The Kern County Republican Party said by email McCarthy and Valadao vote as they see fit.

"The voters here made a decision eight months ago to reelect them," the party said. "There are likely no two members of Congress who vote identically and it's insignificant if they do or don't."

"The Democrat House wants the rest of the year to 'investigate' what happened Jan. 6 through a self-created legislative commission that gives the Democrat chair unlimited authority and to hire the staff," it continued. "Meanwhile, the Department of Justice has been investigating for four months and made 445 arrests. Where's the benefit to the American people of more investigations? Enough already."

Cal State Bakersfield political science professor Mark Martinez said McCarthy may have worried that supporting the commission would provoke an attack by Trump that would jeopardize his chances to become House Speaker if Republicans retake political control of the chamber next year. But he said Valadao faced no such threat.

"Valadao's safe," Martinez wrote in an email, "because he's not … nationally recognized, or viewed as a threat by Trump."

Editor's note: This story has been amended to include a statement by the Kern County Republican Party.