U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) speaks to reporters after the Republican Senate lunch on Capitol Hill in Washington on May 18, 2021.
Evelyn Hockstein | Reuters
Senate Republicans blocked a bill on Friday to set up an independent commission to investigate the January 6 uprising in the U.S. Capitol as Democrats and GOP argue over how best to investigate the legislature attack and another attack on the democratic process can be prevented.
With a vote between 54 and 35, the measure did not reach the threshold required to overcome a filibuster, as almost all GOP senators were against it. Six Republicans voted to move the proposal forward: Bill Cassidy from Louisiana, Susan Collins from Maine, Lisa Murkowski from Alaska, Rob Portman from Ohio, Mitt Romney from Utah and Ben Sasse from Nebraska. All of these senators except Portman voted in February to find former President Donald Trump guilty of instigating a riot.
The vote will likely wipe out the creation of a panel that Democrats and some Republicans have identified as critical to understanding what led to the violent attempt to disrupt the transfer of power to President Joe Biden. GOP leaders have claimed the commission could redouble existing efforts by the Department of Justice and Congressional committees to investigate the pro-Trump mob attack that resulted in five deaths, including that of Capitol Police officer Brian Sicknick.
Sicknick’s mother met with a handful of Republican senators Thursday and urged them to support the commission.
Republicans have tried to divert attention from the uprising that fueled Trump’s 2020 election conspiracy theories as they attempt to regain control of Congress in the middle of next year. Top GOP lawmakers, especially in the House of Representatives, have set themselves the goal of curbing criticism of Trump, who remains the most popular figure in the Republican Party.
“Fear of or allegiance to Donald Trump, the Republican minority only prevented the American people from learning the full truth about January 6,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, DN.Y., said after the vote.
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The democratically held house passed bipartisan legislation earlier this month with 252-175 votes. 35 Republicans supported it, while 175 GOP officials voted against. House Republican leaders pushed for opposition after Rep. John Katko, RN.Y. negotiated the deal with Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss.
The bill failed to win the Republican votes it needed to move forward in the evenly divided Senate after minority leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., Urged his caucus to oppose it.
“I will continue to support the real, serious work of our criminal justice system and our own Senate committees,” McConnell said Thursday before the vote. “And I will continue to urge my colleagues to oppose this alien layer if the Senate has to vote.”
The bill would set up a 10-person commission to study the factors that led to the uprising. Democratic and Republican leaders would each appoint half of the members who could not be current government officials.
The panel, which would have the power to summon, would report on its investigation by the end of the year.
When Schumer urged senators to back the commission’s bill on Thursday, Schumer said the country must eradicate belief in Trump’s unsubstantiated claims that widespread fraud led to his November defeat. He called the lies a “cancer” in the GOP.
“We have to investigate, uncover and report the truth,” he said. “We need to make a trustworthy record of what really happened on January 6th and what happened before that. That is exactly what this commission is supposed to do, non-partisan and right down the middle.”
At least one top Senate Republican has suggested that the panel would detract from the party’s medium-term election news. John Thune, RS.D., said earlier this month, “Anything that makes us rewarm the 2020 elections is, in my opinion, a day where we don’t contrast ourselves with the very radical left-wing Democratic agenda can.” “”
Senator Joe Manchin, the most conservative Democrat in the Senate, has repeatedly urged Republicans to vote in favor of setting up the commission. However, the West Virginia senator said he would still not team up with most of his Democratic counterparts to scrap the filibuster, which would allow the party to pass the laws on its own.
Biden, whose takeover of the presidency the pro-Trump mob tried to disrupt, scoffed Thursday at the prospect of senators voting against the commission’s establishment.
“I can’t imagine anyone voting against setting up a commission for the biggest attack on the Capitol since the Civil War,” he said.
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