House strikes deal on commission to investigate insurrection, with vote expected next week

Key Points
  • Two key House members, Reps. Bennie Thompson and John Katko, announced a deal on an independent commission to investigate the Jan. 6 insurrection at the Capitol.
  • The chamber is expected to vote on a bill setting up the panel as soon as next week.
  • The commission will have 10 members, five each appointed by Democrats and Republicans, and issue a report after it finishes the probe.
  • Democrats and some Republicans have pushed to set up a panel to better understand what led to the insurrection, as many in the GOP have tried to minimize the attack.
House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Bennie Thompson (D-MS) questions witnesses during a hearing on 'worldwide threats to the homeland' in the Rayburn House Office Building on Capitol Hill September 17, 2020 in Washington, DC.
Chip Somodevilla | Getty Images

Key House members announced a deal Friday to form an independent commission to probe the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, as lawmakers try to understand the failings that allowed a pro-Trump mob to overrun the building.

The panel will investigate the circumstances of the attack as well as the factors that led to it, according to Homeland Security Committee Chair Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., and ranking member John Katko, R-N.Y., who negotiated the deal.

The commission will consist of 10 members who cannot be current government officials. The majority Democrats will appoint five, including the chair, and Republicans will choose five, including the vice chair.

The group will have subpoena power and issue a report when it finishes the probe. The House is expected to vote on a bill setting up the commission as soon as next week.

"Inaction – or just moving on – is simply not an option," Thompson said in a statement. "The creation of this commission is our way of taking responsibility for protecting the U.S. Capitol."

In a separate statement, Katko said, "I believe we have a fair, solid bill that will deliver answers on the federal response and preparedness to ensure nothing like this happens ever again."

Supporters of former President Donald Trump stormed the Capitol in January while lawmakers counted President Joe Biden's electoral victory. Five people, including a Capitol police officer, died due to the attack.

The mob descended on the legislature after the former president made weeks of unfounded claims that widespread fraud cost him the presidential race against Biden. The House impeached Trump during his final days in the White House for inciting an insurrection. The Senate acquitted him after he left office.

Democrats and some Republicans have insisted lawmakers need to better understand what led to the violent attempt to disrupt the transfer of power. They have questioned how intelligence and security failings allowed rioters chanting "Hang Mike Pence" and seeking out House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to get within moments of finding the top government officials.

Many Republicans — some of whom voted not to count certified state election results after Congress was retaken from the mob — have questioned the need for a commission to study the events of Jan. 6. Most of the GOP has either tried to move on from the insurrection, or downplay the attack.

Supporters of U.S. President Donald Trump climb a wall during a protest against the certification of the 2020 presidential election results by the Congress, at the Capitol in Washington, January 6, 2021.
Jim Urquhart | Reuters

Speaking to reporters Friday morning, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., called it "very concerning" that the panel was expected to investigate Capitol security only related to Jan. 6 and not Good Friday, when a man rammed a car into a checkpoint and killed a Capitol police officer.

McCarthy said he had not read the announced agreement.

In a statement Friday, Pelosi said, "it is imperative that we seek the truth of what happened on January 6 with an independent, bipartisan 9/11-type Commission to examine and report upon the facts, causes and security relating to the terrorist mob attack." The California Democrat reiterated that the House expects to move forward with a separate bill to provide supplemental funding for Capitol security.

The commission announcement comes days after House Republicans removed Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., from her leadership post as she hammered Trump for spreading conspiracy theories about the election. Cheney, one of 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach the former president, broke with McCarthy in supporting a commission that would focus only on the Jan. 6 insurrection.

A hearing this week also underscored the Republican efforts to minimize the attack on the Capitol. Rep. Andrew Clyde, R-Ga., claimed it was not an insurrection but a "normal tourist visit."

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