WASHINGTON (AP) – The Senate pushed into action Friday a bill to create an independent commission to study the deadly Jan.6 attack on the Capitol by supporters of Donald Trump.
Republicans still plan to block the measure using systematic filibustering, but snags on another unrelated bill forced delays that prevented the Senate from proceeding with a procedural vote as scheduled Thursday.
There was no sign that the GOP opposition had caved in, although the family of a Capitol police officer who collapsed and died after the siege and other officers who fought the rioters their asked to support the commission. The insurgency was the worst attack on Capitol Hill in 200 years and interrupted Democrat Joe Biden’s certification of victory over Trump.
Although the Jan.6 committee bill was passed by the House earlier this month with the support of nearly three dozen Republicans, GOP senators said they believed the committee would ultimately be used against them politically. And Trump, who still has a firm grip on the party, called it a “Democratic trap.”
The expected vote is emblematic of the deep mistrust between the two parties from the seat, which sowed deeper divisions on Capitol Hill even as lawmakers from both parties together fled the rioters that day. The events of January 6 have become an increasingly sensitive topic among Republicans as some party members downplayed the violence and defended the rioters who backed Trump and his false insistence that the election was stolen from him. .
While initially saying he was open to the commission’s idea, which would be modeled on an investigation into the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell has firmly opposed it in recent days. . He said he believed the panel’s investigation would be partisan despite the even division among party members.
McConnell, who once said Trump was responsible for instigating the mob attack on Capitol Hill, said of Democrats: “They would like to continue to plead for the former president, in the future.”
Still, a handful of Republicans – if not enough to save it – had to vote to move the bill forward. Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski said she will support the legislation because she needs to know more about what happened that day and why.
“The truth is a difficult thing, but we have a responsibility to it,” she told reporters Thursday evening. “We just can’t pretend that nothing bad happened or that people got too excited. Something horrible has happened. And it is important to say it.
Among his colleagues opposed to the commission, Murkowski said some feared “we don’t want to tip the boat.”
The GOP’s opposition to the bipartisan panel has reignited Democratic pressure to end filibustering, an age-old Senate tradition that requires a vote of 60 of 100 senators to interrupt debate and move a bill forward. With the Senate split 50-50, Democrats need the support of 10 Republicans to pass the committee bill.
The Republicans’ political arguments over the violent siege – which is still crude for many on Capitol Hill almost five months later – have frustrated not only Democrats but also those who repelled the rioters.
Michael Fanone, an officer with the Metropolitan Police Department who responded to the attack, said between meetings with Republican senators that a commission is “necessary for us to heal as a nation from the trauma we all have. lived that day “. Fanone described being dragged down the steps of the Capitol by rioters who shocked him with a stun gun and beat him.
Sandra Garza, the partner of Capitol Hill Police Officer Brian Sicknick, who collapsed and died after fighting the rioters, said of the Republican senators: “You know they’re here today and with their families and at ease because of the actions of law enforcement that day. “
“So I don’t understand why they would resist getting to the bottom of what happened that day and fully understanding how to prevent it. It’s just beyond me, ”she said.
Video of the riots shows two men spraying Sicknick and another officer with a chemical, but the Washington medical examiner said he suffered a stroke and died of natural causes.
Garza attended the meetings with Sicknick’s mother, Gladys Sicknick. In a statement on Wednesday, Ms Sicknick suggested that opponents of the commission “visit my son’s grave in Arlington National Cemetery and, once there, think about what their hurtful decisions will do to the officers who will be. there for them in the future “.
Dozens of other police officers were injured as rioters passed them, smashing windows and doors and searching for lawmakers. Protesters built a fake gallows in front of the Capitol and demanded the hanging of Vice President Mike Pence, who oversaw the certification of the presidential vote. Four protesters died, including a woman who was shot and killed by police as she attempted to break into the House chamber with lawmakers still inside.
“We have a crowd that passes Capitol Hill, and we can’t get the Republicans to join us in making this event a historic record?” It’s sad, ”said Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois, the second Democrat in the Senate. “It tells you what is wrong with the Senate and what is wrong with filibuster.”
Many Democrats warn that while Republicans are prepared to use obstruction to stop an arguably popular measure, it shows the limits of attempting to negotiate compromises, especially on bills related to electoral reforms or elections. other aspects of the Democrats’ agenda.
For now, however, Democrats do not have the votes to change the rule. West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin and Arizona Senator Kyrsten Sinema, both moderate Democrats, have said they want to preserve filibuster.
Biden, when asked about the commission during a stop in Cleveland, said Thursday: “I can’t imagine anyone voting against.”
Texas Republican Senator John Cornyn, who once supported the commission’s idea, said he now believes Democrats are trying to use it as a political tool.
“I don’t think that’s the only way to get to the bottom of what happened,” Cornyn said, noting that Senate committees are also looking at the seat.
Associated Press editors Alan Fram, Colleen Long, and Padmananda Rama contributed to this report.
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