House Approves Probe of Capitol Attack; All But Two Republicans Say No
(Bloomberg) -- The House passed a Democratic bill Wednesday creating a 13-member committee to investigate the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, with only two Republicans voting in favor and the rest of the GOP dismissing the inquiry as an exercise in partisan politics.
“That day, Jan. 6, was one of the darkest days in American history,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said before the vote. The mob sought “to block the certification of an election and the peaceful transfer of power that is the cornerstone of our democracy.”
The vote was 222-190 to create the House select committee, which doesn’t require assent of the Senate or the signature of the president to begin its investigation.
House GOP leader Kevin McCarthy said he hasn’t decided whether he would appoint any Republicans to the panel.
“It’s all partisan, you can see it,” he said in an interview.
In May, 35 House Republicans voted in favor of an independent bipartisan commission to investigate the causes of the insurrection by a mob of then-President Donald Trump’s supporters as Congress was certifying the result of the 2020 presidential election. But Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell led a successful Republican effort to block the commission legislation, prompting Pelosi to push ahead with a House inquiry.
Representatives Liz Cheney and Wyoming and Adam Kinzinger of Illinois were the two Republicans who backed the select committee. They also were two of the 10 GOP House members who voted in January to impeach Trump for his role in stoking the mob. They both also backed legislation to create the independent commission.
“It is right to be wary of an overtly partisan inquiry,” Cheney said in a statement before the vote. “But Congress is obligated to conduct a full investigation of the most serious attack on our Capitol since 1814. Our nation, and the families of the brave law enforcement officers who were injured defending us or died following the attack, deserve answers. I believe this select committee is our only remaining option.”
Kinzinger said the nation needs “a full accounting” of what happened on Jan. 6. He said in a statement that while he would have preferred an independent commission conduct the investigation, “It is our duty to conduct a thorough investigation of this most egregious attack on the Capitol.”
But other House Republicans said Democrats were trying to lay blame on Trump and that the focus should be on the failure of security forces to anticipate and stop the attack.
Republican Representative Michael Burgess of Texas said before the vote that Democrats have already arrived at their findings and are “fixated” on Trump.
“The Democrats have already been publicly excoriating President Trump for months,” he said. “They claim we need to understand the root cause of what happened on Jan. 6. But the truth is they’ve already laid the blame.”
Representative Beth Van Duyne, another Texas Republican, called the panel “Pelosi’s puppet committee,” citing the authority it gives the speaker over the appointment of Republican as well as Democratic members.
“The speaker’s obsession with dominating this committee is concerning,” she said.
The bill provides no deadline for the committee to complete its work, which could extend into 2022, an election year in which control of the House and Senate will be decided.
Pelosi gets to pick the panel’s chairman, who would have the power to issue subpoenas, requiring only consultation with the panel’s top Republican. Pelosi also would appoint all the other lawmaker members of the panel, though five of whom would be chosen “after consultation with the minority leader.” Her office has said she is considering choosing a Republican among her picks.
“It will investigate and report upon the facts and causes of the attack. It will report on conclusions and recommendations for preventing any future assault. And it will find the truth,” Pelosi said in a letter Wednesday morning to House Democrats.
Republicans including McConnell, have argued there are already multiple House and Senate committee investigations under way. Some had also objected to what they described as the limited jurisdiction and scope of the commission that would not permit it to look into other events such as last summer’s Black Lives Matter protests.
Pelosi’s office declined to say before the vote how soon after she might make appointments to the panel. Among lawmakers being mentioned as her choice for potential chairman is Homeland Security Committee Chairman Bennie Thompson of Mississippi.
The committee also will scrutinize the security preparations for the day and the response of the U.S. Capitol Police as well as federal, state and local law enforcement agencies.
Another focus is to be what the bill calls “influencing factors that fomented such an attack on American representative democracy while engaged in a constitutional process,” a reference to the disruption of certifying Electoral College votes.
Watching From the Gallery
Sitting in the chamber’s gallery at Pelosi’s invitation for Wednesday’s vote were members of the Capitol Police and Washington, D.C., Metropolitan Police departments. Included were Capitol Police Officer Michael Fanone, who was injured on Jan. 6. Also invited were Gladys Sicknick, the mother of Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick, who was injured during the riot and died of a stroke a day later, and her son’s partner.
Gladys Sicknick said outside the chamber that she was thankful for the vote.
“They are doing what they are supposed to be doing,” she said of lawmakers creating a panel to dig into the details of that day.
©2021 Bloomberg L.P.