McConnell Opposition Casts Doubt on Independent Jan. 6 Probe
(Bloomberg) -- Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell said he opposes the Democrats’ plan for a commission to investigate the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol, casting doubt about whether Congress can come to agreement on an independent probe of the insurrection.
A day after saying he was undecided on House Democrats’ legislation to establish a bipartisan commission, McConnell on Wednesday fell into line behind former President Donald Trump and House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy in opposition to what he called an “unbalanced proposal” to investigate the siege by supporters of the former president.
McConnell accused Democrats of moving ahead with the proposal “in partisan bad faith” and that there already are multiple law enforcement and congressional investigations of the riot under way.
“The facts have come out and they’ll continue to come out,” he said on the Senate floor.
The Democratic-controlled House is set to vote later Wednesday on a bipartisan plan to set up the panel, which is modeled after the Sept. 11 commission. Some Republicans in the House and Senate have voiced support for the legislation. But it has become another test of loyalty to Trump, who on Friday called it a “Democrat trap.” The opposition by McConnell also may cut into support in the Senate, where at least 10 GOP senators would have to go along to get it to the floor of a chamber for a vote.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has vowed to bring the commission legislation to the Senate.
The legislation being taken up by the House was a compromise worked by Homeland Security Chair Bennie Thompson of Mississippi and the panel’s top Republican, John Katko of New York. It was meant to address Republican objections to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s plan on the makeup and authority of the panel. Katko was given authority by McCarthy to negotiate, only to find McCarthy and other top party leaders balking at the results.
The compromise calls for a 10-member commission appointed equally by Democrats and Republicans and drawn from outside Congress or government. The commission will have the authority to issue subpoenas, but those will require agreement between the chair and the vice chair or a vote by a majority of commission members.
It aligns with another commission bill from earlier in the year that 31 House Republicans had signed-on as co-sponsors.
But some GOP critics wanted to expand the scope to include the unrest in several cities during Black Lives Matter protests and said focusing on the Jan. 6 insurrection was an attempt to target Trump, who continues to hold sway with Republican voters.
“This commission isn’t about justice, oversight or fact-finding; it’s about Democrats’ desperate need to keep prosecuting a former president and his supporters because their current agenda is failing the American people and destroying this country in real time,” Texas Republican Representative Chip Roy said in a statement.
Democrats used that sentiment to criticize the opposition.
“Once again, they are caving to Donald Trump and proving that the Republican Party is still drunk off the big lie,” Schumer said.
GOP Senator Susan Collins of Maine said changes would need to be made to the House bill to get her support. The House bill would let the Democrat-appointed chair choose all of the staff members and “that’s not right and that’s not how the 9-11 Commission worked,” she said.
Collins said she also wants to ensure “the work gets done this year and does not go over into the election year.”
Senate Republican Whip John Thune said rank-and-file Republicans are split over the House measure creating the commission, and it isn’t clear whether 10 Republicans would support it when it comes to the Senate.
“This isn’t something we’ve assessed or whipped yet,” said Thune of South Dakota. “There are some of our members who have obviously an interest in seeing a commission go forward, others who believe it would be counter-productive because of the work that’s already been done and believe that it could be weaponized politically and dragged into next year.”
Thune said he wants the GOP 2020 midterm message to be focused on jobs, wages, strong borders and defense “and not relitigating the 2020 election.”
“Clearly I think a lot of our members, and I think this is true of a lot of House Republicans, want to be moving forward and not looking backward,” he said. “Anything that gets us rehashing the 2020 election I think is a day lost on being able to draw contrasts between us and Democrats’ very radical, left-wing agenda.”
Shortly before McConnell voiced his opposition, the bill had gained the support of former New Jersey Governor Tom Kean and former Representative Lee Hamilton, who were the chairman and vice chairman of the 9/11 commission.
“Americans deserve an objective and accurate account of what happened. As we did in the wake of September 11, it is time to set aside partisan politics and come together as Americans in common pursuit of truth and justice,” they said in a joint statement.
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