Democrats move closer to setting up January 6 commission, with or without GOP
WASHINGTON – House Democrats lobbied on Friday with a bipartisan proposal to create an independent commission to investigate the Jan.6 attack on Capitol Hill, after reaching a deal with a key Republican to drop his party’s demand for look at leftist violence unrelated to the attack. .
But it was not clear whether the GOP leaders, who insisted on such an investigation, Black Lives Matter and antifa, a free collective of anti-fascist activists, would accept the deal. The uncertainty has raised the prospect of a House showdown next week over the investigation and the Republican Party’s reluctance to consider the deadly attack on Congress by a pro-Trump mob.
The proposal accepted by senior Democrats and Republicans on the Homeland Security Committee would provide Congress with a government-wide, non-partisan account of what led to the riot and hampered law enforcement response, as well as recommendations to prevent a recurrence. On the model of the commission which studied the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, the body would render its conclusions before December 31.
“Inaction – or just moving on – is just not an option,” said Rep. Bennie Thompson, Democrat of Mississippi, who struck a deal with Rep. John Katko, Republican of New York. “The creation of this commission is our way of taking responsibility for protecting the United States Capitol.”
The proposal could break a partisan deadlock that has persisted for months over the composition and mandate of such a commission. But Republican leaders in the House and Senate did not immediately say whether they would support him.
Representative Kevin McCarthy, California Republican and Minority Leader, said shortly after the announcement that he had not approved Mr Katko’s plan and had yet to review the details. A spokesperson for Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Republican Leader of the Senate, declined to comment.
Yet the announcement of a compromise suggested Democrats were prepared to simply bypass most Republicans in the House if necessary. This would force GOP lawmakers to choose between embracing a Donald J. Trump-inspired riot investigation, which is likely to anger the former president and alienate their constituents who revere him, and oppose an explanation of the deadliest attack on the Capitol in over 200 years.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the House would vote next week on the bill creating the proposed group. At the same time, she plans to move forward with a vote on a long-awaited bill that would provide $ 1.9 billion to bolster the Capitol’s defenses, reimburse the National Guard and other forces in the United States. order for the protection of the complex following the attack and to cover the related costs. to the coronavirus pandemic.
Republican leaders have yet to approve the spending measure, calling it premature. But Democrats believe holding a quick vote will force GOP leaders to the negotiating table.
The measure’s provisions include more than $ 500 million to reimburse the National Guard, which provided thousands of troops to patrol the newly fortified Capitol; $ 350 million to create retractable fences and new security control sites in the complex, $ 160 million to harden windows and doors; over $ 175 million to protect federal judges and courts and $ 40 million to fund prosecutors pursuing suspected rioters on Capitol Hill.
It includes smaller sums of money to equip Capitol Hill police officers with body cameras and boost protection for lawmakers as they roam the country. Many of the initiatives were recommended by a group led by Russell L. HonorÃ©, a retired army lieutenant general, appointed by Ms. Pelosi to investigate the security of the Capitol.
Capitol Police quickly issued a statement saying the funding “would help the ministry move forward to fulfill our ever-evolving mission.”
The pair of measures and the lengthy deliberation surrounding them underscored how violence rocked and reshaped Congress in the months following the riot, including deepening its partisan divisions.
The attack was one of the most violent in American history. More than 140 police officers were injured, at least five people died in the riot, the vice president and members of Congress had to flee for their lives and the Capitol building itself was badly damaged . And initial reviews by congressional committees and other government watchdogs have already revealed troubling evidence of preventable intelligence and security failures that have made matters worse.
Supporters of a bipartisan commission say putting out non-partisan investigative experts will improve the investigation and help calm partisan nerves. Some senators, whose after-action hearings into the attack have been bipartisan, believe the need for a new investigation is less urgent.
“An independent bipartisan commission will remove politicization from the conversation and focus only on the facts and circumstances surrounding the security breach on Capitol Hill, as well as other cases of violence relevant to such a review,” Katko said. in a press release.
Mr Katko is among the more moderate House Republicans and was one of 10 in his conference to vote to impeach Mr Trump in January for inciting an insurgency. His position mirrored that of another of the 10, Representative Liz Cheney of Wyoming, whom Republicans purged from their leadership ranks this week for his vocal repudiation of the former president’s election lies and his party’s complicity in their. respect.
She said Republicans did not want a close investigation on Jan. 6 because it “threatens people in my party who may have played a role they shouldn’t have played.”
“I am very happy that they rejected Chief McCarthy’s suggestions that we should water down the commission somehow,” Ms. Cheney tell ABC News on Friday, adding that Mr. McCarthy “absolutely should” testify in front of the body about a phone call he had with Mr. Trump while the attack was underway.
But the two Republicans appear to be in the minority. Many of the party’s strongest voices have embarked on a concerted campaign to minimize and deflect attention from the Capitol Riot by highlighting the independent actions of activists aligned with left movements.
Rep. Louie Gohmert, Republican from Texas, offered the latest example on Friday, when he walked into the House for an hour-long speech in which rioters – who smashed windows, clubbed police officers and threatened to hang former Vice President Mike Pence that day. – had been essentially peaceful.
Mr Gohmert accused the Justice Department of abusing its power to harass and punish Tories who came to organize a nonviolent protest that day, while “being kind to the looters and destroyers of Portland. “.
“The overwhelming number of people caught up in these unprecedented investigations, as the Justice Department promises, are in fact peaceful and non-violent Americans,” he said. “Their only crime was supporting Donald Trump and worrying about the fraud Democrats have been telling us about in elections for many years.”
The denial has left Democrats furious and puzzled as to how to respond. One of them, Rep. David Cicilline of Rhode Island, who served as an impeachment attorney against Mr Trump, began asking colleagues on Friday to support a resolution censoring a handful of Republicans who had the most openly denounced the attack on the Capitol.
The deal Mr. Katko struck also included concessions from the Democrats. After pushing for a deal that would have given their party more power to choose who would sit on the commission, they agreed to a 50-50 split in which each party would nominate five of the ten members. The power of subpoena would be shared equally between the persons appointed by the two parties.
But that does not allow the commission to examine events beyond January 6, as some Republicans had insisted. Instead, the panelists would be tasked with examining “the facts and causes relating to the January 6, 2021 national terrorist attack on the United States Capitol complex” as well as “the influential factors which fomented such attack on American representative democracy while engaged in a constitutional process. “