U.S. House to vote on Capitol attack commission; McConnell opposes it
WASHINGTON (Reuters) -Supporters of a bipartisan commission to investigate the Jan. 6 U.S. Capitol riot by former President Donald Trump’s supporters made their final arguments before a House of Representatives vote set for Wednesday, while the top Senate Republican worked to kill the proposal.
As the Democratic-led House neared the vote, a handful of Republicans joined Democrats in speaking in favor of forming an independent commission modeled after the one that investigated the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States.
Dealing a significant blow to the chances of congressional passage of legislation establishing a commission, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell announced his opposition, calling it “the House Democrats’ slanted and unbalanced proposal” and saying existing congressional investigations are sufficient.
In the evenly split Senate – controlled by Democrats only because Vice President Kamala Harris can cast tie-breaking votes – Republicans can block the legislation. At least 60 votes are needed to advance most bills in the 100-member Senate.
“There will continue to be no shortage of robust investigations,” said McConnell, who in January said here that the mob that attacked the Capitol was “fed lies” and “provoked” by Trump and others.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat, said she could launch regular committee hearings with “full subpoena power” to investigate the riot if Republicans block the commission.
“But that’s not the path we have chosen to go,” Pelosi added.
The 10-member commission would face a Dec. 31 deadline to produce a public report, including recommendations for preventing another Capitol attack. It would be charged with examining security and intelligence failures surrounding the riot in which Trump’s supporters, after he delivered an incendiary speech, interrupted the formal congressional certification of Democrat Joe Biden’s victory in the November election. Five people died in the violence.
Representative John Katko, one of the Republicans speaking in favor of it, said, “An independent 9/11-style review is critical for removing the politics around Jan. 6.”
Katko helped craft the legislation with House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Bennie Thompson, a Democrat.
The House bill, unveiled last week, would give Republicans equal power with Democrats in appointing commissioners and equal say over witnesses. McConnell also has objected to the commission staff being hired by Democrats, who control both chambers of Congress.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said he will schedule a debate on the legislation. Schumer accused Republican leaders of “caving to Donald Trump and proving that the Republican Party is still drunk off the Big Lie” that the 2020 U.S. presidential election was stolen from Trump through massive voter fraud.
Senator Susan Collins, a Republican moderate, earlier in the day told reporters that while she favors modifications to the House bill, “I do think a commission is a good idea.” Republican Senator John Cornyn left open the possibility of negotiating changes to the House bill.
House Democrats said congressional investigations are insufficient. Democratic Representative Zoe Lofgren, who chairs the House Administration Committee that has held hearings on the attack, told reporters her panel has uncovered “serious errors” leading up to the attack.
Describing a “howling mob” that called for hanging Vice President Mike Pence, Lofgren said her panel’s work does not answer questions about who incited the mob.
“That’s why need a bipartisan, prestigious, top-of-the-line commission to find out what happened and why it happened,” Lofgren said.
Republican Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene explained her opposition, saying on the House floor: “The media is going to use this (commission) to smear Trump supporters and President Trump for the next few years and cover up the real damage that is happening to this country, which is tearing down our economy.”
Trump on Tuesday urged Republicans to vote against the proposal, calling it a “trap” inspired by “the radical left.” Republican lawmakers who vote in favor of the commission risk drawing the wrath of Trump ahead of the 2022 elections in which Democrats are seeking to retain control of Congress.
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