House GOP fumes at effort to condemn Jan. 6 insurrectionists, Holocaust whataboutism and Eastman

Rep. Christopher Kurka motions at House Speaker Louise Stutes and Majority Leader Chris Tuck during an at-ease on Feb. 10, 2022. Kurka was angrily protesting a Sense of the House seeking to condemn Jan. 6 insurrectionists and would later say that not participating in the events was one of his great regrets.

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In the latest turn in the House’s troubles with Rep. David Eastman, Fairbanks Democratic Rep. Grier Hopkins introduced a Sense of the House—a non-binding statement seeking to establish the chamber’s views—that condemns the Jan. 6 insurrectionists, the anti-government Oath Keepers that helped organize it, the rampant comparison of the Holocaust in the covid-19 realm and Rep. David Eastman, who’s a little bit of all of the above. Hopkins is Jewish and has previously sparred with extreme-right legislators over their use of Holocaust imagery to criticize precautions meant to combat the covid-19 pandemic.

The Sense of the House follows the House’s retreat from an attempt to strip Eastman of his committee assignments for his membership in the Oath Keepers, whose leaders have been charged with seditious conspiracy.

It was met with precisely the kind of vitriol and anger that we’ve come to expect out of the Republicans who occupy the minority in the House. Though Rep. David Eastman has been a source of much consternation for the House Republicans in recent years—his extreme-right politics and tendency to attack moderate Republicans more than Democrats has scuttled hopes of a GOP majority—they’ve circled the wagons as he’s cried Cancel Culture and invoked other right-wing hits like critical race theory, border fears and election conspiracy.

Rep. Christopher Kurka, a Wasilla Republican who would later in floor speeches say one of his greatest regrets was not participating in Jan. 6 (he’s also running for governor), raised an objection because the Sense of the House was “clearly engaging in personalities.”

[Read: OPINION: Rep. Eastman’s behavior doesn’t surprise me. His apologists do.]

During several long at-eases, several members of the Republican leadership approached House Speaker Louise Stutes to angrily make their case against the measure, attempting to cite various parliamentary rules in defense of Eastman. The Sense of the House was eventually punted to the House Military and Veterans Affairs Committee, which is holding a hearing on the Oath Keepers on today, but not before three different votes were forced.

Not all minority Republicans were uniformly in support of Eastman. Fairbanks Republican Rep. Steve Thompson voted with the House Majority on every vote.

Here’s the text of the Sense of the House:

The January 6, 2021 insurrection was the first assault on the United States Capitol since the British Army destroyed the seat of American government in the War of 1812.

It is the Sense of the House that those who participated in the January 6 insurrection that invaded the U.S. Capitol, assaulted police, destroyed and vandalized property, and threatened public servants must be condemned in the strongest possible terms.

Further, it is the Sense of the House that those who helped organize the January 6 insurrection, including 11 leaders of the Oath Keepers who have been indicted for their actions, betrayed the U.S. Constitution and the principles on which this republic was founded.

Finally, it is the Sense of the House that comparisons between the Holocaust — a genocide of 6 million people — and government mandates are offensive and unacceptable, including such comparisons made by Representative David Eastman. Such analogies to Nazism, Hitler, and the Holocaust diminish one of the most evil episodes of recorded human history. Therefore, it is the Sense of the Alaska House of Representatives that we condemn Representative David Eastman for such statements.

Following the debate, Eastman delivered a special-order speech that compared the vaccination requirements for New York firefighters to the Holocaust.

[Go deeper: ReBrook: Behind the Veil – The Real David Eastman]

In the big picture: That the House Republicans have circled the wagons around Rep. David Eastman, who’s been a thorn in their sides with his extremist policies and disruptive behavior, is remarkable. In 2020, several Republicans trekked out to Wasilla to campaign for his primary opponent, arguing that his inflammatory and divisive politics were ruining things for the GOP. He’s targeted fellow Republicans for not being anti-abortion enough and helped direct people toward the materials to stand up recalls against moderate Republicans. His fringe politics and refusal to play nice with fellow Republicans has been a key reason that moderates have thought better in the narrowly divided House and formed coalition majorities. That they’re standing by him now is telling of how far things have shifted in recent years.

Follow the thread: The House gets tangled in a knot.

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