House votes to form 9/11-style commission on Jan. 6 Capitol riot

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The House of Representatives voted on Wednesday to form an independent 9/11-style commission to investigate the deadly Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol.

The bipartisan legislation, which was introduced by Reps. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., and John Katko, R-N.Y., passed the Democratic-controlled House 252-175.

Thirty-five Republicans voted in favor of the bill, which was opposed by House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy.

The California Republican released a statement Tuesday saying he could not support the legislation because it did not address other political violence that “has struck American cities, a Republican congressional baseball practice and, most recently, the deadly attack on Capitol Police” last month.

It now heads to the 50-50 Senate, where it would need support from 10 GOP senators to pass. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., has vowed to bring the legislation to the floor for a vote he believes will be a litmus test for the GOP.

“Republicans can let their constituents know: Are they on the side of truth or do they want to cover up for the insurrectionists and for Donald Trump?” Schumer said.

Police clash with pro-Trump rioters
Police clashing with pro-Trump rioters at the Capitol on Jan. 6. (Mostafa Bassim/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

Other GOP representatives, such as Chip Roy of Texas and Andy Biggs of Arizona, have followed McCarthy’s lead and issued statements opposing the proposed commission, and some Republican senators have also expressed concerns. On Monday, Politico reported that Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, said the inquiry would have to look beyond the events of Jan. 6 to get 60 votes in the Senate, while Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., said he was worried that a new commission would interfere with the existing congressional probes into the events leading up to the Capitol riot and the inadequate law enforcement response.

Before the House voted Wednesday, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said he opposes the Jan. 6 commission in its current form.

“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 6th,” McConnell said.

The proposed commission would “investigate and report upon the facts and causes relating to the January 6, 2021, domestic terrorist attack upon the United States Capitol Complex and relating to the interference with the peaceful transfer of power.”

The FBI has arrested nearly 500 people on a range of charges stemming from the riot, staged by supporters of then-President Donald Trump. At least five people died in connection with the attack, including a U.S. Capitol Police officer.

Donald Trump
Then-President Donald Trump rallies the faithful on Jan. 6. (Eric Lee/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

The panel would be made up of 10 appointees, with five members selected by the leaders of each party. The bill states that those appointed to the commission may not be a government officer or employee, and “should be prominent United States citizens, with national recognition and significant depth of experience in at least two of the following areas”: governmental service; law enforcement; the armed forces; intelligence; counterterrorism; cybersecurity; technology; law; or civil rights, civil liberties and privacy.

The commission would have the power to subpoena documents and testimony from McCarthy, who reportedly called Trump during the siege and pleaded with him to call off his supporters who had breached the Capitol.

Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., who voted in favor of the commission, said earlier this week that she “wouldn’t be surprised” if McCarthy is ultimately subpoenaed.

“I think he very clearly and said publicly that he’s got information about the president’s state of mind that day,” Cheney said.

McCarthy told Politico that his chief concern is the scope of the panel, not its broad subpoena power.

“I don’t care about the subpoenas,” McCarthy said.

At a press conference with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi ahead of the vote Wednesday afternoon, Thompson said McCarthy’s opposition to the bill, following months of negotiations and compromise, came as a shock.

“We thought we actually had agreement on all sides,” Thompson said, insisting that he and Katko “worked diligently to make [the proposal] bipartisan.”

“It’s unfortunate that the minority leader has, at the last moment, raised issues that basically we had gone past and there was no issue on his part,” he said. “But I guess that’s politics.”

Asked about what may be driving the Republican opposition to the commission, Pelosi said, “It sounds like they’re afraid of the truth, and that’s most unfortunate.”


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