Senate Republicans voted Friday to block a bill that would create a bipartisan, independent commission to investigate the Jan. 6 Capitol riot.
What You Need To Know
- Senate Republicans voted Friday to block a bill that would create a bipartisan, independent commission to investigate the Jan. 6 Capitol riot
- Republican leaders argued the commission would duplicate other investigations and should also examine violence during last summer’s racial justice protests
- President Joe Biden said that he "can't imagine anyone voting against the establishing of a commission on the greatest assault since the Civil War on the Capitol" after an event Thursday in Cleveland
- Republican Sens. Ben Sasse, Mitt Romney, Lisa Murkowski, Bill Cassidy, Rob Portman and Susan Collins voted to advance debate on the bill, but it was not enough to overcome the body's 60-vote filibuster threshold, killing the bill
- Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer warned in a letter to colleagues that he could hold another vote on the commission: "I reserve the right to force the Senate to vote on the bill again at the appropriate time."
The final vote was 54-35, with six Republicans joining Senate Democrats in voting in to advance debate on the bill, but the total wasn't enough to overcome the Senate's 60-vote filibuster threshold, effectively killing the measure.
"I'm very disappointed, very frustrated that politics has trumped – literally and figuratively – the good of the country," West Virginia Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin said Friday.
"Out of fear or fealty to Donald Trump, the Republican minority just prevented the American people from getting the full truth about Jan. 6," Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said after the vote, adding: "The American people will see how each Republican senator voted."
"This vote has made it official: Donald Trump's 'Big Lie' has now fully enveloped the Republican Party," Schumer said. "Trump's big lie is now the defining principle of what was once the party of Lincoln."
The majority leader warned in a letter to colleagues released Friday that he could hold another vote on the commission: "I reserve the right to force the Senate to vote on the bill again at the appropriate time."
Senators were expected to vote on the legislation Thursday, but procedural delays and votes on an unrelated bill – the American Innovation and Competition Act, which aims to bolster scientific research and development in an attempt to make the U.S. more competitive with China – pushed the vote to Friday.
The legislation cleared the Democratic-led House last week with the support of more than three dozen Republicans, but failed to receive the 60 votes to overcome a filibuster, placing renewed pressure on Democrats to do away with the process.
"This commission is desperately needed," Schumer said ahead of the vote. "If our Republican friends vote against this, I would ask them: What are you afraid of? The truth?"
The Republicans who voted yes on the bill Friday were Nebraska Sen. Ben Sasse, Utah Sen. Mitt Romney, Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski, Louisiana Sen. Bill Cassidy, Ohio Sen. Rob Portman and Maine Sen. Susan Collins.
Portman, notably, is the only Senator in that group who voted to acquit former President Donald Trump in his second impeachment trial, where he was accused of inciting the Jan. 6 insurrection. North Carolina Sen. Thom Tillis, who voted to convict Trump, voted against advancing debate on the commission.
A number of Senators were absent for Friday's vote. One such lawmaker, Pennsylvania Sen. Pat Toomey, a Republican, missed the vote due to a "family commitment," but would have voted to advance the bill, according to a spokesperson.
The bill was the product of negotiations between House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., and the panel’s top Republican, Rep. John Katko of New York. Thirty-five Republican members of the House voted to pass the bill last week. But after the bipartisan deal was struck, GOP leaders came out in opposition of it.
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California and Senate Minority Mitch McConnell of Kentucky argued that the commission would duplicate other investigations being conducted in the Senate and by federal agencies and could interfere with criminal prosecutions. Joining many other Republicans, McCarthy also has insisted that a commission should also examine violence during last summer’s racial justice protests.
"I think at the heart of this recommendation by the Democrats is that they would like to continue to debate things that occured in the past. They would like to continue to litigate the former president into the future,” said McConnell, who once said former President Donald Trump was responsible for “provoking” the mob attack on the Capitol. “We think the American people going forward, and in the fall of 2022, ought to focus on what this administration is doing to the country and what the clear choice is that we have made to oppose most of these initiatives.
"I think this is a purely political exercise that adds nothing to the sum total of information,” the Senate minority leader added.
Murkowski, who voted in the affirmative, slammed Republican leadership for their opposition to the bill.
"To be making a decision for the short term political gain at the expense of understanding and acknowledging what was in front of us, on Jan. 6, I think we need to look at that critically," the Alaska Senator said. "Is that really what this is about is everything is just one election cycle after another, or are we going to acknowledge that as, as a country that is based on these principles of democracy that we hold so dear?"
Trump said last week Republicans “should not approve the Democrat trap of the January 6 Commission.”
But President Joe Biden said that he "can't imagine anyone voting against the establishing of a commission on the greatest assault since the Civil War on the Capitol" after an event Thursday in Cleveland.
President Joe Biden and Democrats, meanwhile, say the inquiry is needed to provide a full accounting of what transpired on Jan. 6, when a mob of Trump loyalists stormed the Capitol as lawmakers convened to certify Biden’s election victory.
“We have a mob overtake the Capitol, and we can’t get the Republicans to join us in making historic record of that event? That is sad,” said Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois, the No. 2 Senate Democrat. “That tells you what’s wrong with the Senate and what’s wrong with the filibuster.”
The commission would have been modeled after the panel that investigated the 9/11 terrorist attacks. It would include five members appointed by Democrats and five chosen by Republicans who would examine the assault on the Capitol as well as the events that led up to it.
The commissioners would have had subpoena power and would have bene required to submit a report detailing their findings to Congress by Dec. 31. The members would have significant expertise in the areas of law enforcement, civil rights, civil liberties, privacy, intelligence or cybersecurity. .
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., has suggested that if the commission bill fails, Democrats may form their own separate panel to investigate the riot. She, however, says she prefers a bipartisan panel and has noted that it too more than a year for legislation to be passed creating the 9/11 commission.
"Leader McConnell and Senate Republicans’ denial of the truth of the January 6th insurrection brings shame to the Senate," Pelosi said in a statement Friday following the vote. "Republicans’ cowardice in rejecting the truth of that dark day makes our Capitol and our country less safe. "As Gladys Sicknick, the mother of fallen U.S. Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick, said this week, the refusal to have a January 6th Commission was a ‘slap in the faces of all the officers who did their jobs that day.'"
House Democrats slammed Senate Republicans for their actions, but said they would not stop investigating the events of Jan. 6.
"Democrats worked across the aisle, agreeing to everything that Republicans asked for. We did this in the interest of achieving a bipartisan Commission. In not taking yes for an answer, Republicans clearly put their election concerns above the security of the Congress and country," Pelosi said. “Honoring our responsibility to the Congress in which we serve and the Country which we love, Democrats will proceed to find the truth."
"This is a shame, but will not stop our search for the truth," New York Rep. Carolyn Maloney, the Chair of the Oversight Committee, wrote on Twitter, pleding that her committee would continue to probe the riot. "It’s what the American people need and deserve."
"Republicans aren't being honest about the Jan. 6 commission," House Intelligence Committee chair Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., posted on Twitter. "It's bipartisan, with equal members from both parties. Subpoenas require a bipartisan vote. We agreed to Republicans' 2021 deadline. Their sham complaints distract from the real motive: To hide the truth."
Ahead of the vote, the mother of the late Capitol Police officer Brian Sicknick said Wednesday she would meet with lawmakers to try to persuade them to act. Sicknick was among many officers protecting the building, some seen in videos in hand-to-hand combat with mob. He collapsed immediately after engaging with the rioters and died the next day.
“I suggest that all Congressmen and Senators who are against this bill visit my son’s grave in Arlington National Cemetery and, while there, think about what their hurtful decisions will do to those officers who will be there for them going forward,” Gladys Sicknick said in a statement.
“Putting politics aside, wouldn’t they want to know the truth of what happened on January 6?” she said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.