Weeks after Senate Republicans blocked a proposal to form a bipartisan commission to investigate the deadly attack on the Capitol on January 6, Democrats are planning to form a House select committee to look into the incident, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-California) announced Thursday.
“This morning, with great solemnity and sadness, I’m announcing that the House will be establishing a select committee on the Jan. 6 insurrection,” Pelosi said at a news conference.
Pelosi has yet to announce the specific composition of the committee, including what the partisan makeup will be and who will lead it. She did say, however, that the committee would be bipartisan and would get “as long as it takes” to produce a report on the attack. The committee will seek out how and why the attack occurred and put forth recommendations on how to prevent similar attacks in the future.
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Though the bill to form the commission has been blocked by the Senate for now, Pelosi says that she sees the House committee to be complementary to the commission, which she still hopes to pass. Pelosi also pointed out that the bipartisan commission to investigate 9/11, upon which the January 6 commission is based, wasn’t signed into law until 2002.
“January 6 was a day of darkness for our country,” Pelosi said. “Many questions regarding the circumstances of this assault on our democracy remain. It is imperative that we seek the truth for what happened.”
The House had approved the proposal to create a commission to investigate the breach last month, but Republicans blocked the bill with 35 no votes in the Senate. Senators Joe Manchin (D-West Virginia) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Arizona) tried before the vote to shore up Republican votes to bypass the filibuster, but were only able to get four Republicans to vote for it — far short of the 10 they needed.
Pelosi criticized Republicans for blocking the legislation on Thursday morning, calling out Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) for his role in turning Republicans against it.
“Unfortunately, despite the expressed support of seven GOP senators, Mitch McConnell asked Republican senators to do him a ‘personal favor’ and vote against the commission,” she said, saying the senators’ move was “cowardly.”
“It is clear that the Republicans are afraid of the truth,” she said later in the announcement. She expressed frustration with the fact that though Democrats “yielded on every point” about how the commission would be formed except for its scope, Republicans still blocked the bill.
Though they haven’t explicitly stated it, to most political observers it’s clear why Republicans oppose the formation of a commission: exposure of the GOP’s own involvement in and encouragement of the deadly attack would result in bad optics for the party. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-California), for instance, came out against the commission shortly after Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyoming) suggested that he may end up being subpoenaed to testify in front of the group.
Perhaps more damningly, number two ranking Republican Sen. John Thune (R-South Dakota) said in May that members of his party opposed the bill because it was bad for their midterm messaging. Ironically, he told CNN at the time that his party is focused on moving past the 2020 election — even as Republicans continue to rewrite the history about January 6 and propagate Trump’s Big Lie about who really won the 2020 election.
Many vital questions about the January 6 attack, however, remain unanswered, partly because of Republican reticence to admit the truth about their own involvement in instigating and encouraging the event. Congress still doesn’t know, for instance, what President Donald Trump was doing during the attack and the extent of his involvement in inciting his rabid followers. And questions still remain about the circumstances surrounding the seven deaths that occurred during and after the attack.