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House Reaches Bipartisan Agreement on Jan. 6 Commission

May 14, 2021 by Dan McCue
A scene from the Capitol Hill riot, Jan. 6, 2021.

WASHINGTON – A House panel reached a bipartisan agreement Friday on legislation that will establish a 9/11-style commission to review events surrounding the Jan. 6 siege on the U.S. Capitol.

The deal reached by the House Homeland Security Committee means a vote on the Jan. 6 Commission can go ahead next week as planned.

In a statement, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called Jan. 6, 2021, “one of the darkest days in our history” adding “the gleeful desecration of our Capitol resulted in multiple deaths, physical harm to over 140 members of law enforcement and terror and trauma among staff, support workers and members.”

“It is imperative that we seek the truth of what happened on Jan. 6 with an independent, bipartisan 9/11-type Commission to examine and report upon the facts, causes and security relating to the terrorist mob attack,” Pelosi continued, thanking Homeland Security Chairman Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., and Ranking Member John Katko, R-N.Y., for reaching the bipartisan agreement to proceed.

The legislation drafted by the committee calls for an investigation of the riot and protesters’ “interference with the peaceful transfer of power” to President Joe Biden.

The inquiry will also look at the preparedness and response of the U.S. Capitol Police, and the factors that influenced the attack.

The investigative body will reportedly include 10 members with expertise in law enforcement and national security backgrounds. Each party will get to appoint five of the members under the terms of the deal.

The new commission will also be able to issue subpoenas when both the chair and vice chair of the commission agree or by vote of a majority of the commission’s members.

“There has been a growing consensus that the Jan. 6 attack is of a complexity and national significance that we need an independent commission to investigate,” Thompson said.

“Inaction – or just moving on – is simply not an option. The creation of this commission is our way of taking responsibility for protecting the U.S. Capitol,” he continued. “After all, the Capitol is not just a historic landmark, it is where our constituents come to see their democracy in action. As such, we owe it to the Capitol police and all who enter our citadel of democracy to investigate the attack. 

“The timing of this action is particularly poignant with this being National Police Week, when we honor those who gave their lives to protect us, ” he added.

To Rep. Katko, “The security breach that took place at the U.S. Capitol on January 6 was unacceptable. 

“It was a major breakdown in information sharing and preparedness, much like the shortfalls that existed prior to 9/11,” he said. “Unfortunately the Capitol remains a target for extremists of all ideologies, as we also witnessed during the April 2 attack that took a Capitol Police officer’s life. That’s why we must do everything we can to ensure nothing like this can ever happen again. An independent, bipartisan commission will remove politicization of the conversation and focus solely on the facts and circumstances surrounding the security breach at the Capitol as well as other instances of violence relevant to such a review.

“The U.S. Capitol Police are responsible for ensuring the safety of Congress and the public and maintaining order while protecting the U.S. Capitol – the seat of our nation’s government. We need an independent review and assessment of the Capitol security complex, as well as law enforcement readiness, decision-making, and bureaucracy leading up to January 6,” he continued.

“As I have called for since the days just after the attack, an independent, 9/11-style review is critical for getting answers our USCP officers and all Americans deserve,” Katko added. “This is about facts, not partisan politics. I appreciate Chairman Thompson’s robust collaboration and strong commitment to working together on this effort. I believe we have a fair, solid bill that will deliver answers on the federal response and preparedness to ensure nothing like this happens ever again.”

The plan worked out by Thompson and Katko is a marked contrast to an earlier proposal floated by Pelosi, which would have been an 11-member committee of which the Democrats would appoint seven and the Republicans only four.

Evn with the change, however, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., remains cool to the plan, telling reporters he hadn’t yet read it.

House Republicans want to expand the scope of the inquiry to look at all protests that have occurred in the past year, including Black Lives Matter protests that occured in the wake of the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

McCarthy has also said he wants the commission to look at events that have occurred since the insurrection, including the death of a Capitol Police officer after a man crashed his car into a Capitol barricade and then leapt from his car with a knife.

Katko was among 10 House Republicans who voted with a unanimous bloc of Democrats to impeach Trump, who was later acquitted after a trial in the Senate.

Days after the attack, Katko and Rep. Rodney Davis, R-Ill., introduced legislation to form a Jan. 6 Commission – equally divided between Democrats and Republicans – to investigate security lapses in the attack.

“This is about facts, not partisan politics,” Katko said, adding he expects the commission’s investigation will help “ensure nothing like this happens ever again.

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said Friday that the American people deserve to know exactly what happened on Jan. 6 and to prevent a repeat “of that terrible day.”

“That’s why I’ve been so vocal about the need to create a bipartisan commission, much as Congress did after the 9/11 attacks, to investigate the Capitol insurrection fully and produce a report outlining recommendations to ensure that our chief democratic institutions are kept safe in the future,” he said, adding he is glas that Thompson and Katko “were able to reach agreement on legislation to establish a bipartisan commission for that purpose and with full subpoena authority, to be led by individuals with substantial expertise in intelligence, law enforcement, civil rights, privacy, civil liberties, and cybersecurity.  

“This is exactly the kind of Congressionally directed investigative body needed to uncover the full story of what happened on January 6 and shed light on the events of that day,” Hoyer said. 

Anticipating next week’s vote, Hoyer said he hoped all members would join in supporting it and that “no Member of Congress ought to be repeating the same lies and falsehoods today that were used to goad the insurrectionists to violence against the Capitol and the Americans who serve there.”

“Protecting the U.S. Capitol Complex and all who serve and work in it is of the highest priority, and therefore, the House will also soon move forward with an emergency security supplemental which will provide for the safety of members and harden the Capitol against further attacks,” Pelosi said.

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