House passes bill to create Jan. 6 commission; 35 Republicans join Democrats

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The House on Wednesday approved a bill that would create an independent commission to investigate the Jan. 6 U.S. Capitol attack, with some rank-and-file Republicans spurning party leadership and siding with the Democrats.

The measure passed 252-to-175, with 35 Republicans voting yes in defiance of party leaders, including former President Donald Trump, who opposes the commission. No Democrat voted against the bill. 

The legislation heads to the Senate, where it is unlikely to get the votes to clear the evenly split upper chamber. Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer, New York Democrat, on Wednesday promised the measure will receive a floor vote.

Hopes that the bill would pass the Senate were likely dashed Wednesday after Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican, said he would oppose the proposal.

“After careful consideration, I’ve made the decision to oppose the House Democrats’ slanted and unbalanced proposal for another commission to study the events of January the 6th,” Mr. McConnell said on the floor of the Senate.

Mr. McConnell’s remarks came one day after he told reporters he was undecided on the matter.

Democrats say the plan is critical to preventing future attacks and combating misinformation that has arisen about the riot.

“We’ve never seen this type of attack before in this country. Pray we never see it again,” said Rep. David Cicilline, Rhode Island Democrat. “That’s why we need to establish a national commission to understand how this happened to gather all the facts surrounding these events and most importantly ensure it never happens again.”

Republicans ticked off several complaints about the plan, saying the commission’s probe would interfere with ongoing law enforcement efforts to pursue rioters and duplicate several committee investigations in the House and Senate.

They also demanded the panel expand its scope to include all political violence in general, including the widespread looting during last summer’s racial justice protests and the 2017 shooting of Rep. Steve Scalise, Louisiana Republican, and others at a baseball field in Virginia.

Republican opposition to the bill solidified on Tuesday after House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and Mr. Trump came out against it. Mr. Trump called the plan a “Democratic trap” and urged GOP lawmakers to vote against it.

Democrats insist the commission won’t be a partisan fishing expedition, saying they’ve already made some compromises to appease Republicans. Among the concessions was agreeing that a subpoena cannot be issued unless a majority of members agree.

“I think it feels like Republicans have been focused on how to get to no, despite a bipartisan agreement,” Suzan DelBene, Washington Democrat, told The Washington Times. “Leader McCarthy is still trying to find a way to take us back from that bipartisan agreement after the Democrats gave in to all of the concessions.”

The bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus endorsed the measure, but some members told the Times ahead of the vote they remained undecided.

“I want to vote for it, but as long as it’s being done for the right purpose, then I’m going to support it. But if I think if it’s been done for political purposes I might have to oppose it,” said Dan Meuser, Pennsylvania Republican and member of the Problem Solvers.

Mr. Meuser said he’s worried that Democrats will use the commission to paint all Republicans as insurrectionists.

“If they’re going to use this commission as a platform to further create these divides and further make unfair accusations, I’m not going to support such a platform,” he continued.

But Brian Fitzpatrick, Pennsylvania Republican and co-chair of the Problem Solvers Caucus, voted in favor of the bill. He said he is going to watch how the commission is put together.

“We’re gonna keep a very close eye on this thing and see how it develops,” he told The Times. “The way it’s set up anything that gets done has to be bipartisan. Nothing could get done without bipartisan agreement. So, I mean that should alleviate any concerns.”

The other 34 Republican House members joining Mr. Fitzpatrick and all the Democrats in voting yes were:

— Arkansas’ French Hill and Steve Womack

— California’s David Valadao

— Florida’s Carlos Gimenez and Maria Salazar Illinois’ Rodney Davis and Adam Kinzinger

— Idaho’s Mike Simpson

— Indiana’s Trey Hollingsworth

— Iowa’s Mariannette Miller-Meeks

— Michigan’s Peter Meijer and Fred Upton

— Mississippi’s Michael Guest

— Nebraska’s Don Bacon and Jeff Fortenberry

— New Jersey’s Chris Smith

— New York’s Andrew Garbarino, John Katko, Tom Reed and Chris Jacobs

— Ohio’s Anthony Gonzalez and David Joyce

— Oklahoma’s Stephanie Bice

— Oregon’s Cliff Bentz

— South Carolina’s Tom Rice

— South Dakota’s Dusty Johnson

— Texas’ Tony Gonzales and Van Taylor

— Utah’s John Curtis and Blake Moore

— Washington’s Jaime Herrera Beutler and Dan Newhouse

— West Virginia’s David McKinley

— Wyoming’s Liz Cheney.

Mr. Meuser said Mr. Trump’s remarks weren’t helpful.

“I was honestly not happy,” he said. “I don’t know why the former president weighed in. It makes me wish he didn’t do that, but, no, it’s going to influence me.”

The measure would create a 10-member commission, which emulates the panel that investigated the causes and lessons of the 9/11 terror attacks. The panel would have subpoena power and be tasked with studying the run-up to the attack on Jan. 6, when thousands of Mr. Trump’s supporters stormed the Capitol to stop Congress from certifying President Biden’s election victory.

On the heels of the commission vote, House lawmakers will vote tomorrow a $1.9 billion spending package to bolster security on Capitol Hill.

The bill would outfit the Capitol and congressional office buildings with moveable fences, door and window reinforcements, and additional security cameras and checkpoints. It also sets aside $21.5 million to step up security details for lawmakers facing threats, both in Washington and their home district.

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