The House passed legislation to create an independent “9/11-style” commission to investigate the Jan. 6 siege on the Capitol in a 252-175 vote on Wednesday.
Under the legislation, each party would select five commissioners with expertise in national security and law enforcement to look into the security shortcomings that allowed a mob of pro-Trump rioters to breach the Capitol building in an attempt to disrupt the certification of the election results.
Current government officials would be barred from serving on the panel, which would be tasked with issuing a report by the end of the year with its findings and recommendations to prevent similar instances of violence in the future.
While the measure easily passed the House, with 35 Republicans joining Democrats in supporting the bill, it appears dead on arrival in the upper chamber, with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) voicing his opposition to the commission during a floor speech on Wednesday morning. To meet the 60-vote threshold needed to pass the Senate, at least 10 Republicans would need to get on board — an unlikely feat due to the Kentucky Republican’s disapproval of parameters agreed upon in the House legislation.
House Committee on Homeland Security Chairman Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) and Ranking Member John Katko (R-N.Y.) announced that they reached a bipartisan deal on the matter last week, with Katko telling The Post that he was “very pleased that this is going to be a very fair and balanced commission, and that’s what I sought to establish and I’m pleased that Chairman Thompson saw it the same way” following its release.
The agreement closely mirrored House Republicans’ counter-proposal to the parameters Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) called for earlier this year. Pelosi initially pushed for an 11-member commission that allowed for Democrats to select seven of its members — a proposal that was met with sharp pushback from GOP lawmakers who accused her of politicizing the probe.
While GOP leadership did not formally whip the bill — with some members stating that it was seen as a “vote of conscience” — House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) — one of former President Trump’s most vocal defenders in Congress — released a statement on Tuesday accusing Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) of refusing to “negotiate in good faith on basic parameters,” and alleged that top Democrats failed to agree on “fair representation and an unbiased premise from which to begin such an investigation,” which were “always understood to be the starting point for bipartisan negotiations.”
House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) later sent out a notice to members recommending that they “vote no.”
Fissures within the Republican party over the scope of issues they feel the commission should investigate led to a split in votes within the conference.
Some leading Republicans, including McCarthy and Scalise, argued that the commission should investigate a broad range of instances of political violence, including the 2017 congressional baseball shooting and the riots that took place across the country in response to police brutality.
Critics of the bill also argued that the commission could potentially undermine ongoing probes being conducted by other nonpartisan entities and made the case that the report would come too late to “properly educate and advise” how to further secure the Capitol, according to the GOP whip operation’s notice on Tuesday.
But others, most notably Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) — who was ousted from her leadership position last week due to her criticisms of Trump and her comments that he holds responsibility for inciting the violence seen on Jan. 6 — argued that the commission should solely be focused on the Capitol breach, asserting that the gravity of the attack, which resulted in multiple fatalities including two Capitol Police officers and dozens of injuries, warrants its own probe.
“I’m very concerned, as all my colleagues are, about the violence that we saw, the BLM, the Antifa violence last summer. I think that’s a different set of issues, a different set of problems and a different set of solutions,” Cheney told reporters at the House GOP retreat in Orlando last month, a comment that sparked backlash from a number of her colleagues.
“And so, I think it’s very important that the Jan. 6 commission stays focused on what happened on Jan. 6, and what led to that day.”
Katko defended the agreement on the House floor ahead of the vote, asserting that the commission would be politically balanced.
“The highly respected 9/11 commission identified numerous challenges that needed to be addressed, which ultimately led to many concrete recommendations that were later enacted into law. These critical reforms vastly improved our information sharing , intelligence collection, vetting capabilities and broader homeland security enterprise,” he said, noting that both parties would have an equal number of members and subpoena power.
“The security breach that took place at west capitol on Jan. 6 was completely unacceptable. It was a major breakdown in information sharing and preparedness. Much like the shortfalls that existed prior to 9/11. It was not only an attack on this institution, but an attack on our law enforcement brethren who defend us every day.
Trump pushed GOP lawmakers to reject the measure in a statement on Tuesday evening, alleging Republican supporters are “being used by the Radical Left.”
“[U]nless the murders, riots, and fire bombings in Portland, Minneapolis, Seattle, Chicago, and New York are also going to be studied, this discussion should be ended immediately,” he said.
“Republicans must get much tougher and much smarter, and stop being used by the Radical Left.
Multiple GOP lawmakers told The Post they felt McCarthy threw Katko “under the bus” with his criticisms of the deal, with proponents of the measure noting it allowed Republicans to have equal representation in choosing who sat on the panel, with some raising concerns that McCarthy’s pushback on the vote put vulnerable members in swing districts in a difficult position.
Democrats slammed McCarthy’s rebuke to the agreement, arguing that he is undermining Congress’ ability to obtain vital information into the attack to protect the former president.
“I’m very pleased that we have a bipartisan bill to come to the floor and it’s disappointing but not surprising that the cowardice on the part of some on the Republican side not to want to find that truth,” Pelosi told reporters on Tuesday.
Some Democrats and a handful of Republicans including Cheney and Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.) said they would like to see McCarthy testify before the commission, citing his mixed messaging on his conversation with Trump on the day of the attack, with two GOP lawmakers indicating a potential subpoena could have been a factor in the California Republican’s opposition to the bill.
McCarthy came under fire earlier this year after Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-Wash.) cited a conversation with the California Republican telling her that Trump sided with the rioters during a phone call that took place during the riot in her statement voicing support for impeachment. McCarthy repeatedly skirted around requests by reporters to clarify what was said on the call multiple times this year.
“He’s told so many different stories about Jan 6, he’d just expose them all under oath,” one senior GOP aide told The Post. “And then they’d call JHB to contract Kevin. It is a PR nightmare for him.”
McCarthy denied that the threat of a subpoena was a factor in his decision to oppose the commission in its current form.
“I have no concern about that but that’s somebody playing politics with it,” he told reporters ahead of the vote, adding that he feels the “real work will be done within the Department of Justice.”
Despite the bill’s uphill battle in the upper chamber, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) has vowed to bring the legislation to the floor.
“We’ll see what the House vote is like, but I want to be clear: I will put the Jan. 6 commission legislation on the floor of the Senate for a vote. Period,” he said on Tuesday.
[via New York Post]