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With Bipartisan Support, House Backs Jan. 6 Commission

May 20, 2021 by Dan McCue
Rep. Benny Thompson, D-Miss., talks to reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, May 19, 2021, about legislation to create an independent, bipartisan commission to investigate the Jan. 6 attack on the United States Capitol Complex. Thompson is the chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee and negotiated the bipartisan legislation. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

WASHINGTON – The House voted 252-175 Wednesday, with 35 Republicans voting with Democrats, to create an independent commission to look into events surrounding the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.

Throughout the afternoon on Wednesday, Democrats argued the independent investigation is necessary to truly get to the bottom of what happened the day a violent mob of Trump supporters laid siege to the Capitol in a bid to overturn the results of the 2020 election.

The inquiry is modeled on the investigation that occured after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, and the legislation, which is now headed for an uncertain future in the Senate, would establish an independent, 10-member commission charged with making recommendations by the end of the year for better securing the Capitol.

In voting with the Democrats, the 35 Republicans appeared to openly defy House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy and former President Donald Trump, who had actively been campaigning against the measure.

Shortly before the vote, Trump released a statement via email, calling the legislation and the commission it would create, a “Democratic trap.”

Republicans loyal to Trump called the whole thing a “smear” campaign.

But it is now obvious, several GOP lawmakers disagreed with this assessment.

“This is about facts — it’s not partisan politics,” said New York Rep. John Katko, the top Republican on the House Homeland Security Committee who negotiated the legislation with Democrats. He said “The American people and the Capitol Police deserve answers, and action as soon as possible to ensure that nothing like this ever happens again.”

Rep. Fred Upton, R-Mich., said that Jan. 6 “is going to haunt this institution for a long, long time” and that a commission is necessary to find the truth about what happened. He recalled that he “heard the shouts, saw the flash-bangs, smelled the gas on that sorry day.” 

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., called McCarthy’s opposition to the commission “cowardice.” She released a February letter from the GOP leader in which he asked for an even split of Democrats and Republicans on the commission, equal subpoena power and no predetermined findings or conclusions. The bipartisan legislation accommodates all three of those requests, she said.

“Leader McCarthy won’t take yes for an answer,” she said. 

Other Democrats were equally critical of their Republican colleagues.

“We have people scaling the Capitol, hitting the Capitol Police with lead pipes across the head, and we can’t get bipartisanship? What else has to happen in this country?” shouted Rep. Tim Ryan, D-Ohio, on the floor just before the vote. He said the GOP opposition is “a slap in the face to every rank and file cop in the United States.”

Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell is now trying to prevent similar defections in his own ranks, echoing McCarthy’s opposition in a Senate floor speech Wednesday morning. 

Utah Sen. Mitt Romney and Maine Sen. Susan Collins, both Republicans, have already said they would support the establishment of some kind of commission.

But  South Dakota Sen. John Thune, the number two Republican in the Senate, spoke for many of his colleagues on the GOP side of the aisle when he said he feared the investigation would be “weaponized politically” in the 2022 election cycle.

“I want our midterm message to be about the kinds of issues that the American people are dealing with. It’s jobs and wages and the economy, national security, safe streets, strong borders and those types of issues, and not relitigating the 2020 election,” Thune said.

Immediately after the House vote, Rep. Mikie Sherrill, D-N.J., chair of the Blue Dog Coalition of House Democrat’s Task Force on National Security, called the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol a politically motivated attempt to prevent the certification of the results of a free and fair election.

“The cornerstone of American democracy,” she said.

“Police officers risked their lives, suffering severe and even deadly consequences to fend off violent and armed insurrectionists and protect our democracy. To better protect our country and secure our democracy, we must get a full accounting of what occurred on January 6 and what led up to the insurrection, taking the same bipartisan approach we did when Congress established the 9/11 Commission,” she said.

“Thankfully, the House just passed bipartisan, commonsense legislation that would establish a bipartisan, independent commission to investigate the January 6 domestic terrorist attack on the United States Capitol and recommend changes to further protect the Capitol. It is deeply concerning and disappointing that Republican leadership actively worked against House passage of a measured bipartisan solution that would simply allow Congress to gather the facts necessary to protect our nation, and it underscores the need for cooler heads to prevail,” Sherrill concluded.

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