Womack says he quit steering committee after fellow Republican ‘threw every one of us under the bus’ in Jan. 6 speech

U.S. Reps. Steve Womack (left), R-Ark., and Mo Brooks, R-Ala., are shown in this combination photo. The photo at right was taken on Jan. 6, 2021, during the "Save America Rally" in Washington. (Left, submitted photo; right, AP/Jacquelyn Martin)
U.S. Reps. Steve Womack (left), R-Ark., and Mo Brooks, R-Ala., are shown in this combination photo. The photo at right was taken on Jan. 6, 2021, during the "Save America Rally" in Washington. (Left, submitted photo; right, AP/Jacquelyn Martin)

A new book out this week by two political correspondents for The New York Times provides some insight into Rep. Steve Womack's resignation from the House Republican Steering Committee shortly after Jan. 6, 2021.

The book -- "This Will Not Pass: Trump, Biden and the Battle for America's Future," by Alexander Burns and Jonathan Martin -- provides a synopsis of what happened.

In an interview with the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette on Tuesday, Womack went into greater detail.

Womack said he resigned from the influential steering committee because it refused to punish U.S. Rep. Mo Brooks of Alabama for a speech he made in Washington, D.C., on the morning of Jan. 6, 2021, a few hours before protesters stormed the U.S. Capitol.

Womack, who represents Arkansas' Third Congressional District, said Brooks threw his Republican colleagues under the bus.

After criticizing Democrats in his speech, Brooks turned his attention to his own party, saying people would learn that day which Republican senators and congressmen would vote "to turn America into a godless, amoral, dictatorial, oppressed and socialist nation on the decline" or vote against ballot fraud and election theft.

Brooks said the 2022 and 2024 elections are right around the corner.

"And America does not need and cannot stand, cannot tolerate any more weakling, cowering, wimpy Republican congressmen and senators who covet the power and the prestige this swamp has to offer while groveling at the feet and the knees of the special-interest group masters," said Brooks. "As such, today is important in another way. Today is the day American patriots start taking down names and kicking ass."

A majority of Republicans in the House voted against certifying the presidential election results on Jan. 6. According to The Washington Post, 139 of the 211 Republican members of the House voted to support at least one objection -- regarding the electoral vote counts in either Arizona or Pennsylvania.

Womack wasn't one of them.

"He basically calls us ... weaklings and cowards," said Womack. "Basically threw every one of us under the bus. Just basically calling out Republicans for not being more like Mo Brooks. And that angered me that he's out there on The Ellipse stirring up a bunch of angry people and throwing us under the bus in the process."

At the next meeting of the Republican Steering Committee, which makes appointments to other committees, Womack played a recording of Brooks' speech for other members.

"There were jaws dropping in there because there were a lot of my colleagues who had never heard what he said," Womack recalled.

Womack said he thought there should be some recourse. He said he wanted to remove Brooks from his position on the House Armed Services Committee, but House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., blocked his efforts.

"I told them I was prepared to offer a motion to strip him of his committee on Armed Services, to which McCarthy said: 'We're not doing Armed Services today. Why don't we wait until we do Armed Services?' That was going to be two weeks later," said Womack.

But by then, McCarthy didn't want to hear it, Womack said.

At that next meeting, McCarthy spoke first, saying they weren't going to strip Brooks of his committee appointment, Womack remembers.

"There's been way too much showin' out, rhetoric, stuff going on, and this stuff has got to stop and by gosh I'm going to stop it, and there's no more nonsense, and there will be consequences if people continue to step out of bounds," Womack remembered McCarthy saying.

"I finally asked for a chance to speak, and I just told them that day: 'I think you're going to rue the day that you didn't take this action. We are just giving license to our members to say everything you want to say about your colleagues, throw them under the bus; it's OK because there's no consequence for it,'" said Womack.

"And that was my argument that day, but I lost," he said. "I lost the effort. And I took it and I went back to my office, and I decided then ... that I didn't want to be part of a committee that was going to reward some of our most -- I don't know how to classify them -- some of our extreme members. I didn't want to be part of a committee that was going to be putting them on committees in the institution of the House of Representatives.

"And at the end of the day I thought maybe what I need to do is just step aside from steering and let somebody else do it, and that's exactly what I did. I wrote a letter to Kevin, I hand-delivered it to the office, and I ended my time on the steering committee, which is kind of unheard of, really."

When asked if he has any regrets, Womack said: "None at all. I sleep well at night. I'm a big boy."

Brooks couldn't be reached for comment Friday.

McCarthy feared in the aftermath of the Jan. 6 attack that several far-right members of Congress would incite violence against other lawmakers, according to a New York Times article by the book's authors, Burns and Martin.

McCarthy talked to other congressional Republicans about wanting to rein in several hard-liners who were deeply involved in Donald Trump's efforts to contest the 2020 election and undermine the peaceful transfer of power, according to an audio recording obtained by The New York Times.

"But Mr. McCarthy did not follow through on the sterner steps that some Republicans encouraged him to take, opting instead to seek a political accommodation with the most extreme members of the G.O.P. in the interests of advancing his own career," according to the Times. "Mr. McCarthy's remarks represent one of the starkest acknowledgments from a Republican leader that the party's rank-and-file lawmakers played a role in stoking violence on Jan. 6, 2021 -- and posed a threat in the days after the Capitol attack."

The book by Burns and Martin also contains references to other Arkansans.

At a virtual meeting of Republicans on Jan. 11, 2021, before Biden's inauguration, lawmakers discussed ways to assuage Trump's anger over the outcome of the election.

Rep. French Hill of Arkansas said that if Trump would concede and meet with Biden, then it would "save us a lot of pain and misery," according to the book.

On Jan. 4, 2021, General Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, called Tom Cotton, a Republican senator from Arkansas, according to the book.

"A hard-line conservative and a close ally of the president, Cotton had announced that he would vote to certify the election results, and he was working closely with Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader, to counter a group of senators who intended to object," according to "This Will Not Pass."

Milley asked Cotton to explain how the certification process on Jan. 6 was supposed to work.

"He was worried, the general explained, that Washington was poised to explode," according to the book.

It was not that he feared an insurrection, exactly, but an outbreak of street violence between extreme forces on the right and left, the book says.

And the book contains this passage about Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson: "Asa Hutchinson of Arkansas, a sober conservative who had served in Congress during the Clinton era, blames Trump to this day for sabotaging his own battle with the coronavirus at the state level. 'President Trump's comments, his rhetoric, and his almost flippant attitude in some contexts, made it difficult for a governor like me to really push the seriousness of the medical emergency that we're in,' Hutchinson says."