Republican leaders in the United States Congress are opposing a proposed bipartisan commission to investigate the January 6 Capitol riot by supporters of former President Donald Trump.
“After careful consideration, I’ve made the decision to oppose the House Democrats’ slanted and unbalanced proposal for another commission to study the events of January the sixth,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said on Wednesday.
Despite growing Republican opposition, the US House of Representatives voted 252-175 on Wednesday to establish a commission modelled on the one that investigated the al-Qaeda attack of September 11, 2001.
The bill would establish a 10-member bipartisan commission to investigate the causes of the Capitol riot, the security and intelligence failures that led to the breach as well as influencing factors including Trump’s role. The panel would be directed to release a final report by December 31.
Democrats, who have blamed Trump for inciting insurrection in the attack, plan to bring the measure to a vote in the Senate soon. They would need at least 10 Senate Republicans to support it in order to win passage and McConnell’s opposition will complicate their effort.
“It is not at all clear what new facts or additional investigations and yet another commission could actually lay on top of the existing efforts by law enforcement and Congress,” McConnell said.
“House Democrats have handled this proposal in partisan bad faith, going right back to the beginning,” McConnell said, alleging Democrats were trying to “centralise control over the commission’s process and its conclusions”.
Democrats and Republicans, however, have diverged sharply in their assessments of what happened on January 6 and what policies, if any, should be adopted. Compared with the post-September 11 period when Democrats and Republicans were united against a foreign threat, US politics are now fractured.
More than 425 people have been charged by US prosecutors in connection with the events of January 6, according to the FBI which is continuing to seek others identified in videos of the mob. In addition to the Justice Department probes, committees of Congress are also investigating.
As Congress met to formally ratify Joe Biden’s election win, then-President Trump gave a fiery speech at a rally of thousands of his supporters claiming the election had been stolen from him.
Trump supporters marched on the Capitol, broke through police barricades, smashed windows and doors, and chased members of Congress into emergency shelters. One woman trying to enter the House chamber was shot by the US Capitol Police and a police officer who had scuffled with rioters died the next day.
The co-chairs of the 9/11 Commission, former New Jersey Governor Tom Kean and Representative Lee Hamilton, who led the investigation into the September 11 attacks, issued a statement on Wednesday in support of the proposed commission.
“Today, democracy faces a new threat,” Kean and Hamilton said in a statement released by the office of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the lead proponent of the commission.
“The January 6 attack on the US Capitol was one of the darkest days in the history of our country,” they said.
“Americans deserve an objective and an accurate account of what happened.”
The Democratic-backed proposal won approval in the House Rules Committee on Tuesday with Democrats in favour and Republicans against it after top House Republican Kevin McCarthy announced his opposition.
“I cannot support this legislation,” McCarthy said, citing “political misdirections” and a “potentially counterproductive” result of the effort. McCarthy said the commission should also focus on “political violence” in the US cities during 2020 and a 2017 shooting of Republican members of Congress.
Democrats rejected McCarthy’s claims after his opposition undercut an agreement reached between Democratic and Republican committee leaders.
Pelosi, a Democrat, told reporters she was disappointed but not surprised over the “cowardice” shown by some Republicans who do not “want to find the truth”. Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer said Republican objections from McCarthy were “bogus”.
Representative John Katko, the top Republican on the Homeland Security Committee who negotiated the deal with Democrats, said the bill was crafted to give Republicans and Democrats equal authority on the commission.
“I want to make sure people understand we did this for a reason, because that’s exactly what made the 9/11 commission successful,” Katko said in House floor debate appealing to Republicans to support the bill.
Thirty-five House Republicans broke with their leadership to join Democrats voting in support of the bill.
“This should not be about party politics or become a partisan fight,” Representative Adam Kinzinger tweeted on Tuesday. “It needs to be focused on truth and accountability.”
I support a bipartisan January 6 commission. This should not be about party politics or become a partisan fight. It needs to be focused on truth and accountability. https://t.co/IL9oCYs2WL pic.twitter.com/EeHnxJbTBz
— Adam Kinzinger (@RepKinzinger) May 18, 2021
Republican Representative Peter Meijer tweeted, “An objective, fact-based examination of the assault on the Capitol is critical to rebuilding trust and ensuring it never happens again.”
I strongly supported a Jan 6 commission months ago and I still strongly support the bipartisan Jan 6 commission @RepJohnKatko introduced Friday. An objective, fact-based examination of the assault on the Capitol is critical to rebuilding trust and ensuring it never happens again. https://t.co/y7NvnjpP8H
— Rep. Peter Meijer (@RepMeijer) May 19, 2021