As Democrats push ahead with bipartisan bill to set up Jan. 6 commission, GOP support is unclear

Key Points
  • Democrats are moving to pass a bipartisan bill to set up a commission to study the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, but neither top Republican in Congress has backed the plan.
  • House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy said he would oppose the plan, while Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said his caucus is "undecided" about whether to set up a panel.
  • The Republican leaders' stances raises questions about the legislation's passage in Congress.
  • McCarthy contended the panel would duplicate existing investigations and argued it should have a broader scope.
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy listens during news conference after the GOP Conference Chair election on Capitol Hill on Friday, May 14, 2021 in Washington, DC.
Kent Nishimura | Los Angeles Times | Getty Images

Democrats will move this week to pass a bipartisan bill to form a commission to investigate the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, but the top Republicans in Congress have not yet backed the plan, raising questions about its passage.

The House plans to vote as soon as Wednesday on legislation to set up a 10-member panel — appointed by Democratic and Republican leaders — which would study the events that led to a pro-Trump mob overrunning the Capitol while lawmakers confirmed President Joe Biden's electoral win. Reps. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., and John Katko, R-N.Y., the chair and ranking members of the House Homeland Security Committee, brokered the agreement.

Despite GOP involvement in reaching the deal, neither House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., or Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., have yet come on board with the proposal. Democrats can pass the bill in the House with little or no GOP support, but they will need 10 Republican votes to overcome a filibuster in the Senate.

McCarthy, who voted to object to counting Arizona and Pennsylvania's certified election results after rioters stormed the Capitol, said he would oppose the legislation. He contended the panel would duplicate efforts by congressional committees and federal authorities to investigate the insurrection, and argued its scope should extend beyond the events of Jan. 6.

"Given the political misdirections that have marred this process, given the now duplicative and potentially counterproductive nature of this effort, and given the Speaker's shortsighted scope that does not examine interrelated forms of political violence in America, I cannot support this legislation," he said in a statement Tuesday.

McConnell, meanwhile, said Senate Republicans are "undecided about the way forward at this point" and would "read the fine print" before Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., brings the bill to a vote. He expressed concerns about Democratic influence over staff hiring and potential overlap with prosecution of rioters.

Schumer committed Tuesday to bringing the legislation to a vote if the House passes it.

"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?" he told reporters.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, reacting to McCarthy's opposition, said, "I am very pleased that we have a bipartisan bill to come to the floor, and [it's] disappointing but not surprising that [there is] cowardice on the part of some on the Republican side, [to] not to want to find the truth."

Some GOP senators have echoed McCarthy's concerns about the commission. Sen. Josh Hawley, a Missouri Republican who also objected to counting certified election results, said Monday that a commission should probe other events including when a driver rammed into a barricade and killed Capitol Police officer William Evans on Good Friday.

Rioters, spurred by former President Donald Trump's unfounded claims that Biden won because of widespread fraud, overran the Capitol on Jan. 6 in events that led to five deaths, including that of Capitol Police officer Brian Sicknick. The mob, which included people chanting "Hang Mike Pence," came within moments of reaching the former vice president and members of Congress.

The attack on the legislature led the House to impeach Trump for inciting an insurrection during his final days in office. The Senate acquitted him after Biden's inauguration as many Republicans argued they could not convict a former president.

Dozens of challenges in key states failed to uncover evidence of irregularities that would have cost Trump the 2020 election.

House Republicans have increasingly ostracized members who challenge the election conspiracy theories spread by the former president, who maintains a strong hold on GOP voters. The caucus on Wednesday removed Rep. Liz Cheney, a Wyoming Republican and one of 10 members of her party to vote to impeach Trump, from her leadership post.

Cheney later said "we cannot be dragged backward by the very dangerous lies of a former president." She has expressed strong support for a commission to investigate the insurrection.

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