The House was set to vote Wednesday to create an independent commission to investigate the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, as Senate Minority Leader, echoing comments by his GOP counterpart in the House, urged his party's members to oppose such an effort.
The Republican opposition to creating a commission to probe the deadly attacks that were, just four months earlier, broadcast on screens across the U.S. underscores the deep partisan divisions in Washington. Republicans have sought to derail the commission, including insisting the panel have a scope broader than the Jan. 6 attacks, and following the lead of former President Donald Trump, some have bluntly attempted to revise the narrative of what happened during the deadly riots.
The House can pass the bill with only Democratic support and is expected to do so Wednesday, but at least 10 Republicans are needed in the Senate.
On Wednesday morning, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said on the Senate floor that he'd "made a decision to oppose the House Democrats’ slanted and unbalanced for another commission to study the events of January the 6th."
McConnell argued that law enforcement efforts to find the perpetrators are ongoing and bipartisan investigations at the committee level are already underway, saying there has been “no shortage of robust investigations” into the events.
"It’s not at all clear what new facts or additional investigation yet another commission could actually lay on top of existing efforts by law enforcement and Congress," he said.
McConnell’s remarks come one day after Trump released a statement demanding that he and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., — mentioning the two by name — reject the commission. McCarthy announced his opposition to the legislation on Tuesday morning.
More than 440 people have been charged so far with participating in the attack, which left five dead. Many have ties to right-wing extremist groups, the FBI has said.
Prosecutors have said some of the hundreds of Trump supporters who stormed the Capitol were prepared for battle, wearing helmets and tactical gear. The attack was timed to try to derail Congress counting the votes in the presidential election that confirmed Trump's defeat and the election of President Joe Biden.
A majority of the public supports the creation of an independent commission to look into the attacks, according to recent polling.
Later Wednesday, Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., the No. 2. Republican in the Senate after McConnell, suggested that creating the commission was bad, politically, for the GOP.
Thune told reporters that Republican senators essentially fell into two camps: those who supported the panel, and those "who, I think, believe it will be counterproductive because of the work that's already been done, and that it could be weaponized politically, and drug into next year.”
"In this environment, everything is going to be used politically,” added Thune, who would not say whether he supports the commission.
Democratic leaders vowed to move forward with the vote.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., referring to Republicans, said at a press conference, "it sounds like they are afraid of the truth. And that's most unfortunate."
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"But hopefully they'll get used to the idea that the American people want us to find the truth, and that is what we intend to do. And to do it in a way that is as unifying as possible," she said.
Earlier, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., tore into House Republicans for opposing the proposed panel.
“What the Republicans are doing, the House Republicans, is beyond crazy, to be so far under the thumb of Donald J. Trump. Letting the most dishonest president in American history dictate the prerogatives of the Republican party will be its demise. Mark my words," Schumer said, saying their decision was based on a “shameful” desire to protect Trump and the “big lie.”
The bipartisan bill is still expected to pass the House with some support from moderate Republican members of the Problem Solvers Caucus, whose 58 members are equally divided between both parties and have endorsed the commission. The group announced Tuesday evening that the proposal won the support of more than 75 percent of its members.
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In the Senate, however, the bill will face an uphill climb after McConnell's comments, with Democrats needing at least 10 Republicans to join them in supporting the measure to overcome a filibuster.
The future of the investigative panel is just one of numerous measures or hearings surrounding the Jan. 6 attacks where partisan divisions threaten to spill over this week.
Later Wednesday, the House Administration Committee was set to hold a hearing entitled “Reforming the Capitol Police and Improving Accountability for the Capitol Police Board” that would cover proposed reforms to the U.S. Capitol Police. House Sergeant-at- Arms Maj. Gen. William J. Walker will testify.
On Thursday, the House is slated to vote on a broad $1.9 billion spending bill that includes funds to boost security measures at the Capitol.
Meanwhile, the investigative commission legislation is the product of a compromise announced Friday by the top Democrat on the House Homeland Security Committee, Rep. Bennie Thompson of Mississippi, and the top Republican, Rep. John Katko of New York.
Under the bill, the commission would include five members, including a chair, appointed by Democratic leaders in Congress, and another five, including a vice chair, appointed by Republican leaders.
Commissioners would need to have “significant expertise in the areas of law enforcement, civil rights, civil liberties, privacy, intelligence, and cybersecurity,” and current government officers or employees are prohibited from appointment, the announcement said.
The commission would also have the power to issue subpoenas upon agreement between the chair and the vice chair or a vote by a majority of commission members.