House backs Capitol riot commission as group of Republicans defy Trump’s objections

Thirty five GOP lawmakers break with former president and party leadership

Graeme Massie
Los Angeles
,Alex Woodward
Thursday 20 May 2021 11:26
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McConnell Opposes Insurrection Commission Proposal

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The House of Representatives has backed an independent commission to investigate the deadly Capitol insurrection as a group of Republicans defied Donald Trump’s objections.

A total of 35 GOP lawmakers broke with their party leadership and voted in favour of the commission, which will study the events leading up to and during the 6 January violence.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and the former president had all publicly opposed it.

The final vote came in at 252-175 in favour of the commission and the legislation now moves on to the Senate where it faces an uncertain future.

Five people died as Mr Trump’s supporters rioted and stormed the US Capitol to prevent the certification of Joe Biden’s election victory over the defeated ex-president.

The violence came after months of Mr Trump denying his defeat and falsely claiming the election had been “stolen” from him.

GOP congressman Representative Adam Kinzinger – an outspoken opponent of Mr Trump – said he was pleased with the number of fellow Republicans who had voted for the commission, despite intense pressure being put on by party leaders.

“It is an easy vote, we need answers and we need to take ownership on what was done,” he told CNN.

“I am pleased by the number of my colleagues who have voted for it. It is a positive number.”

The bill will now require 10 Republicans in the Senate to join all 50 Democrats and vote for the commission to break the 60-vote filibuster threshold in order for it to pass.

If passed it would create a 10-person commission, with each party getting an equal number of members and subpoena power.

The committee would be similarly modelled to the congressional investigation after the 11 September terror attacks.

It would have subpoena authority and would study the events leading up to, during and after the deadly attack on the Capitol, as pro-Trump rioters sought to threaten lawmakers as GOP allies rejected election results.

Despite bipartisan makeup on the commission, and an opaque timeline and understanding of what the administration and law enforcement knew, four months later, Republican lawmakers have rejected the proposal, downplayed the events from that day and deflected to accusing Democrats of ignoring protest violence in US cities in 2020.

The measure also mirrors a similar proposal that had 130 Republican cosponsors.

Jim McGovern, chair of the House Rules Committee, suggested some Republicans now “want to sweep this dark chapter under the rug.”

“This is how you respond responsibly to what happened here four months ago,” he said.

“Not with deflection or mistruths, but by taking action … We need to put the facts on record here. To tell the truth, and not spread lies, and the truth is that some on the other side are afraid to do anything around here because they’re afraid, afraid of the truth, afraid because their leadership doesn’t want to offend the ex-president and his big lie.”

US Rep John Katko, a Republican who worked alongside Democratic Rep Bennie Thompson as part of the bipartisan effort to craft the commission, said it was “critical” to move an investigation forward without partisan politics involved.

“This is about facts,” he said.

“We would not have gotten to this point if it was about partisan politics.”

House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy announced his opposition to the commission on Tuesday.

That night, House Minority Whip Steve Scalise said he would whip his GOP colleagues against it.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell – presiding over nearly half of the upper chamber, which could ultimately decided the commission’s fate – announced he was “undecided” on a vote that night.

Then, the former president issued a statement raging against the commission proposal, pushing Republicans to “get much tougher” and echoing the deflection among GOP lawmakers to instead investigate “murders, riots and fire bombings” in cities run by Democrats.

“Hopefully, Mitch McConnell and Kevin McCarthy are listening!” he said.

On Wednesday morning, Senator McConnell announced his opposition to what he called a “slanted and unbalanced proposal” from House Democrats.

“It’s not at all clear what new facts or additional investigation yet another commission could lay on top of the existing efforts by law enforcement and Congress,” he said on the Senate floor.

“What is clear is that House Democrats have handled this proposal in partisan bad faith going right back to the beginning, from initially offering a laughably partisan starting point to continuing to insist on various other features under the hood that are designed to centralise control over the commission’s process and its conclusions in Democratic hands.”

Following the former president’s second impeachment trial in February, Mr McConnell said there is “no question, none, that President Trump is practically and morally responsible” for provoking the attack.

“The people who stormed this building believed they were acting on the wishes and instructions of their president,” Mr McConnell said, despite voting to acquit Mr Trump.

“The leader of the free world cannot spend weeks thundering that shadowy forces are stealing our country and then feign surprise when people believe him and do reckless things.”

The commission would review the security of the Capitol complex as well as “the influencing factors that fomented such an attack on American representative democracy while engaged in a constitutional process”.

The legislation also proposes that the commission makes suggestions for actions to be taken.

During debate over the bill, Democrats and several Republicans who supported the bipartisan process spoke in plain, stark terms about what happened on 6 January while pointing out the fact that members of Congress are rejecting an inquiry into what happened to them.

A furious Tim Ryan, speaking directly to Republicans, invoked the Benghazi hearings, among several Republican-controlled partisan-driven House committees.

“Benghazi – you guys chased the former secretary of state all over the country, spent millions of dollars,” he said, referencing Hillary Clinton.

“We had people scaling the Capitol, hitting Capitol Police with lead pipes across the head, and we can’t get bipartisanship? What else has to happen in this country?” Rep Ryan said.

“We need two political parties in this country that are living in reality, and you ain’t one of ‘em.”

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