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100 Days After Capitol Attack, Pelosi Renews Call for “9/11-Style” Commission

Republicans have so far refused to budge on forming a commission, citing partisan concerns regarding its makeup.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi during a weekly news conference at the U.S. Capitol on April 15, 2021, in Washington, D.C.

One-hundred days after the breach of the United States Capitol building by a mob of Donald Trump loyalists, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-California) renewed her push to establish a “9/11-style” commission to examine what exactly happened that day and how to address potential acts of violence like it in the future.

Pelosi expressed her resolve to establish such a commission in a “Dear Colleague” letter she published on Friday. Her previous calls to do so were dismissed by Republicans.

“On this 100th day, we are determined to seek the truth of January 6th. To do so, we must have a January 6th Commission,” Pelosi wrote. “To that end, we have once again sent a proposal for such a Commission to the Republicans, modeled after the 9/11 Commission.”

Getting Republicans to compromise on the plan is “necessary,” the speaker added.

“We must agree on the scope, composition and resources necessary to seek and find the truth,” Pelosi said. “It is my hope that we can reach agreement very soon.”

Republicans have previously blocked the formation of a commission under terms Pelosi suggested, however, as it would likely be composed of a majority of Democratic-leaning members.

Unlike the 9/11 Commission, which had an equal amount of Democrats and Republicans examining the attacks of September 11, 2001, Pelosi’s plan would allow for each of the leaders in Congress — Senate Majority Leader Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-New York), Senate Minority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky), House Minority Leader Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-California) and Pelosi — to select two individuals to serve on the commission. President Joe Biden would be allowed to select three members, giving Democrats the chance to select seven members with Republicans selecting four.

Some have noted, however, that Biden could himself choose to represent both Democratic and Republican viewpoints in his picks, as he has on other issues such as what he did with his recently named commission on addressing potential reforms to the Supreme Court. It’s possible that Biden could potentially appoint one Democrat and one Republican, and his third choice could be an independent point of view.

Such moves, however, come with their own set of concerns, as having a bipartisan commission may prevent finding the truth that Pelosi said she is seeking over what happened on January 6. Indeed, there may be merits to keeping a Democratic majority on the commission. A number of lawmakers in the GOP caucus have themselves made troubling statements or expressed errant viewpoints regarding the Capitol breach of January 6.

Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Alabama), for example, took part in the very same rally that was hosted by former President Trump, where both politicians wrongly asserted the 2020 election had been rife with fraud and “stolen” from Trump’s supporters. During that rally, Brooks had told Trump’s mob of loyalists that it was time to start “taking down names and kicking ass” hours before they attacked the Capitol building.

Sen. Josh Hawley, a Republican from Missouri, also has a troubling history with regard to those who breached the Capitol. Hawley was among the chief proponents of challenging the Electoral College results that day, and arguably added fuel to the proverbial fire in the weeks ahead of the attack on Congress.

“[F]or him the approval of the Electoral College votes would have been simply a formality. He made it into … a specific way to express the view that the election was stolen. He was responsible,” John Danforth, a former Republican senator from Missouri who helped Hawley’s political rise, said after the breach.

Still other Republican lawmakers, such as Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wisconsin), have downplayed the significance of the events of January 6. Johnson falsely claimed in February that the attack wasn’t an armed one, and in March wrongly alleged there wasn’t any violence at all on the Senate side of the Capitol.

McCarthy himself has been less-than-consistent on his views of what happened that day. Within a few days of casting blame toward Trump for the breach of the building on January 6, the House minority leader changed his tune completely, defending Trump’s words that day and suggesting he did not do anything wrong by telling his supporters they would “never take back” the country with “weakness.”

Many other Republican members of Congress made similar statements prior to January 6, lending their support to Trump’s effort to push the “big lie” of voter fraud. Even after the violent attack, 147 Republicans voted still to overturn the results of the Electoral College vote. In pushing for equal representation of a commission to investigate the attack, Republicans are in effect pushing for equal representation of many of the very people who helped egg it on.

“I don’t think that you could make this a bipartisan committee,” said political analyst and journalism professor Jason Johnson, while speaking on MSNBC in February. “You can’t put together [a bipartisan] investigative committee on an issue where, literally, your co-workers may have also been conspirators.”

Johnson added that there is a “significant chunk of the Republican Party that is pretending that not just the insurrection either didn’t happen, but that, maybe, their colleagues and ideologies they push for and the candidate they supported didn’t have anything to do with it.”

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