WASHINGTON – Republicans on Friday blocked the creation of an independent commission to investigate the January 6 riot on Capitol Hill, using their power to obstruct the Senate for the first time this year to condemn a full account of the deadliest attack on Congress in centuries.
The vote was a blatant display of loyalty to former President Donald J. Trump and the political interest of Republicans determined to shield themselves from an investigation that could tarnish their party. They feared an inquiry that would remind voters of the consequences of Mr. Trump’s election lies and how Republican lawmakers gave in to them, inciting their supporters to violence.
All of this ensured that there would be no full non-partisan investigation into the root causes of the attack, the former president’s conduct as his supporters threatened lawmakers and the vice president, or any connection between his allies in Congress and the rioters.
While members of both political parties immediately agreed that an investigation was needed, most Republicans have since worked to put the episode behind them, and some have actively sought to deny or downplay the reality of what is happening. has passed.
On Friday, only six Republicans joined Democrats in supporting progress on the measure to create the independent commission. The final vote, 54 to 35, did not reach the 60 senators needed to pass a Republican obstruction.
The vote was a crushing defeat for supporters of the commission. They had argued that the only way to put together a truly comprehensive account of the riot for a polarized nation was to conduct an investigation modeled on that of the September 11, 2001 attacks, in which outside experts with staff. subpoena powers have undertaken an in-depth study.
Some Republicans have expressed distaste for their own party for blocking it, saying they put politics above finding out what promises to be a grim set of facts.
“I don’t want to know, but I need to know,” said Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, one of six Republicans who voted to form the commission. “To make a decision for short-term political gain, at the expense of understanding and recognizing what lies ahead on January 6 – I think we need to take a critical look at this.”
As the Justice Department has opened hundreds of criminal cases against rioters, and congressional committees are likely to expand nascent investigations, they will almost certainly face limitations that a commission made up of experts in national security, nominated jointly by Republicans and Democrats, would not do. Among them are partisanship, provocative witnesses and turf wars that will likely leave key questions unanswered about how the party rallied to Mr. Trump’s stolen election lies and his demands that Republicans overturn the election. victory for Joseph R. Biden Jr.
“Do my Republican colleagues remember that day? New York Democrat and Majority Leader Senator Chuck Schumer asked for moments after the vote. “Do my fellow Republicans remember the savage mob calling for the execution of Mike Pence, the makeshift gallows outside the Capitol?”
“Shame on the Republican Party for trying to sweep the horrors of this day under the rug because it is afraid of Donald Trump,” he added.
The top Republicans had had fun supporting the measure just last week. But they eventually turned the tide and the House approved it with just 35 Republican votes. The leaders concluded that a close examination of the attack would give Democrats powerful political ammunition ahead of the 2022 midterm elections – and infuriate a former president they intend to appease.
“I don’t think the additional foreign commission that the Democratic leaders want would uncover crucial new facts or promote healing,” said Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Republican leader, on the eve of the vote. “Frankly, I don’t believe it’s even designed to do that.”
Although Mr McConnell has said he will continue to support the criminal prosecution of the rioters and will maintain his “unperturbed” criticism of Mr Trump, the commission’s defeat will likely only embolden him. ‘former president at a time when he once again increased circulation. of its baseless and debunked claims. Republicans had previously saved Mr. Trump from conviction in two impeachment trials.
Within months, his lies have distorted the opinions of many supporters of his party, who see President Biden as illegitimate. They also inspired a wave of new voting restrictions in Republican-led states and a pipe-dreaming recount in Arizona denounced by both sides. And they fueled the efforts of Republican members of Congress to diminish and reframe the Capitol Riot as a benign event akin to a “normal sightseeing tour.”
“People are just starting to understand! Mr. Trump wrote in a statement Thursday.
Democrats denounced the vote and warned Republicans that preventing an independent inquiry would not prevent them from facing the implications of Mr. Trump’s attacks on the democratic process.
Mr Schumer and President Nancy Pelosi are now planning their own committee investigations into the attack, how it was coordinated and why the government failed to prevent an assault that left several dead, the Capitol sacked and people inside in danger.
Ms Pelosi could also set up a select committee focused solely on the attack, giving Democrats unilateral subpoena power and a much longer time frame to investigate anything they want. Mr Schumer apparently endorsed the idea on Friday afternoon, saying it was “better to investigate with a select committee than not to investigate.”
Progressives seized on Republicans’ opposition to the committee as a new rationale for their case and invoking the so-called nuclear option to rewrite the filibuster rule and allow bills to pass simple majority . Activists urged Democratic leaders to do so, then bypassed the Republican opposition to pass urgent Liberal priorities, like sweeping voting rights measures, gun control legislation, legalization of undocumented immigrants and more.
“If Republicans cannot agree to an independent commission to investigate the first armed insurgency on Capitol Hill in our country’s history, then something is wrong,” said Senator Elizabeth Warren, Democrat of Massachusetts. “And that something is obstruction.”
But changing the rules would require the agreement of all 50 Democrats, and at least two are against it. One of them, Senator Joe Manchin III of West Virginia, said his position was unchanged.
“I’m not ready to destroy our government, no,” he said.
Yet after an 11-hour scramble with Maine Republican Senator Susan Collins to draft a compromise to address some of the concerns her party has expressed about the legislation, Mr Manchin concluded that most would not support her and were just browsing for fallacious reasons. vote no.
“I am very, very disappointed, very frustrated that politics has taken precedence – literally and figuratively – over the good of the country,” he told reporters after the vote.
The six Republican senators who voted to advance debate on the commission included Ms Collins, Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, Ms Murkowski, Rob Portman of Ohio, Mitt Romney of Utah and Ben Sasse of Nebraska. All but Mr. Portman had voted in an impeachment trial in February to find Mr. Trump guilty of inciting insurgency.
A seventh Republican, Sen. Patrick J. Toomey of Pennsylvania, missed the vote – one of 11 senators to do so – but said he would have voted to advance debate on the commission.
Mr Cassidy argued his party was also making a strategic error in blocking the commission, giving Democrats a reason to continue partisan investigations into what happened on January 6 “with or without Republicans.”
“To ensure that the investigations are fair, impartial and fact-based, Republicans must be involved,” he said.
After his own flirtation with Bill’s support, Mr. McConnell worked aggressively to quash the support. To convince his colleagues that the Democrats were acting in bad faith, despite the bipartisan nature of the commission, Mr McConnell circulated an interview with James Carville, the Democratic strategist, urging his party to “make this insurgency its own every day by the Republicans “.
It was a marked change for Mr McConnell, reflecting how much his political calculus has changed since January 6. Although he has made some of his party’s most scathing condemnations against Mr. Trump’s attempt to undermine the election results, the Minority Leader has now made a clear decision that his party’s fortunes – and his own – depends on putting events behind them firmly in favor of an attack on Mr. Biden’s program.
By rejecting the commission, Republicans have resisted emotional calls from those affected by the riot to drop their opposition. The mother and longtime girlfriend of a Capitol Hill police officer who died after facing the crowds led an emotional lobbying campaign of last resort on the eve of the vote, teaming up with officers who responded to the assault .
“I couldn’t stay silent any longer,” said Gladys Sicknick, the mother of Constable Brian D. Sicknick, who died after the attack.
The group also included Michael Fanone, a Washington police officer who was brutalized by rioters and begged them to spare his life, and Harry Dunn, a Capitol Hill police officer who is black and has faced a multitude. racist insults during the attack.
“It’s very disturbing that anyone who doesn’t want to support this,” said Sandra Garza, Agent Sicknick’s girlfriend. “Why wouldn’t they want to get to the bottom of such horrific violence?”
Emily cochrane contributed reports.