Senate Republicans Block Legislation to Create Jan. 6 Commission
Senate Republicans Block Legislation to Create Jan. 6 Commission

By Jack Phillips

Senate Republicans on Friday blocked advancing a House-passed bill that would form a 9/11-style commission to investigate the Jan. 6 Capitol breach.

Senators voted 54-35 on the measure, falling short of the 60-vote threshold to avoid a filibuster.

Republican Sens. Mitt Romney (Utah), Ben Sasse (Neb.), Lisa Murkowski (Alaska), Susan Collins (Maine), Bill Cassidy (La.), and Rob Portman (Ohio) joined all Democrats in voting on the measure. Other than Portman, the six GOP senators all voted to convict former President Donald Trump during his second impeachment trial. Republican Sens. Pat Toomey (Pa.) and Richard Burr (N.C.), who voted to convict Trump during the trial, did not cast votes in favor of the Jan. 6 commission.

The vote came just a day after Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), on the Senate floor, urged his caucus not to support the legislation and suggested it was merely a partisan effort from Democrats.

McConnell, in his speech, highlighted that there are a number of investigations into the Jan. 6 incident that is already underway, including one by the Department of Justice that has resulted in more than 400 arrests. Legislative committees are also holding hearings and are providing recommendations to prevent a future Capitol breach.

“I do not believe the extraneous ‘commission’ that Democratic leaders want would uncover crucial new facts or promote healing. Frankly, I do not believe it is even designed to,” the Kentucky Republican said. And that’s why, he added, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) issued a first draft of the bill that “began with a laughably rigged and partisan starting point, and why the current language would still lock-in significant unfairness under the hood.”

“Obviously the role of the former president has been litigated exhaustively—exhaustively—in the high-profile impeachment trial we had here in the Senate several months ago,” McConnell added.

House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), when the bill was up for a vote in the House earlier this month, similarly urged fellow GOP lawmakers not to support it.

And some Republican senators have said that in the future a bipartisan commission could be formed, but some publicly stated that the legislation is merely designed to harm Republicans during the upcoming midterms in 2022.

“As a practical matter, I don’t think that we can do this thing until after a lot of those criminal probes are completed,” Sen. Mike Rounds (S-N.D.) said, referring to the DOJ’s investigations into the incident. “I still would like to see a commission go through, just for history’s sake. I’d like to see it, but I think we’re going to have to wait until after the criminal prosecutions are completed.”

The bill would create a 10-person commission that has the ability to issue subpoenas in its investigation. The panel would be modeled after the one created in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

Senate Democrats argued that the commission is necessary to figure out the root causes of the Jan. 6 incident.

“If our Republican friends vote against this, what are you afraid of? The truth? Are you afraid Donald Trump’s big lie will be dispelled?” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said ahead of the vote on Friday. “Are you afraid that all of the misinformation that has poured out will be rebutted by a bipartisan, down the middle commission?”

President Joe Biden, meanwhile, had signaled that he supports the creation of the panel, saying Thursday that he “can’t imagine” why the GOP would reject it.

In a letter sent after the vote on Friday, Schumer suggested that he could bring the bill to create the Jan. 6 committee back to the Senate floor for a vote.

“Senators should rest assured that the events of January 6th will be investigated and that as Majority Leader, I reserve the right to force the Senate to vote on the bill again at the appropriate time,” he wrote to Democrats in the upper chamber.

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