EXPLAINER: How the Jan.6 Congressional Committee Would Work
WASHINGTON (AP) – An independent commission to study the Jan.6 Capitol insurgency is said to draw inspiration from a similar panel that has studied the September 11 terrorist attacks and has long been hailed as a bipartisan success.
But bipartisanship is not always popular these days, especially following the deadly siege by a host of supporters of former President Donald Trump, which left tensions between the two sides more heated than ever on Capitol Hill. Hill.
Democrats and Republicans who support the idea are struggling to push a bill that would bring the commission to the finish line. The House passed it easily, with 35 Republicans signing on. His fate is less clear in the equally divided Senate, where Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has said he will vote against. McConnell called the bipartisan panel “biased” and “unbalanced” and said Democrats had negotiated in bad faith.
A look at the facts of the commission proposed on January 6 and the politics surrounding it:
A BIPARTISAN APPROACH
Republicans who tried to portray the commission as partisan, even though the bill passed by the House would give Republicans and Democrats an equal number of members. Republican House Leader Kevin McCarthy, who opposed the bill, called it “the Pelosi Commission,” according to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
In fact, the bill is the product of bipartisan negotiations between the Chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., And the Republican at the top of that group, New York Representative John Katko. The commission would have ten members – five appointed by Democrats and five appointed by Republicans. The president would be nominated by the Democrats and the vice president by the Republicans. Summons to appear can only be issued if there is agreement between these two leaders or by a majority vote of the committee.
The final version was changed from Pelosi’s first draft, in which Democrats reportedly nominate more members and have exclusive subpoena power.
Some Republicans, including McConnell and Maine Senator Susan Collins, have raised objections to how the panel would appoint staff, suggesting it would make the panel lopsided. The legislation requires the president to hire staff “in consultation with the vice president, in accordance with the rules agreed by the commission”.
Pelosi suggested Thursday that while staff are Republicans’ biggest problem, it’s easily fixed. “Sure, they can hire staff,” Pelosi said of the Republican commissioners. “It was never even a question.
DISAGREE ON THE SCOPE OF APPLICATION
Pelosi’s first bill included a series of conclusions citing FBI Director Christopher Wray as saying that racially motivated violent extremism, and in particular white supremacy, was one of the greatest threats to American security. . Some of the pro-Trump rioters were linked to white supremacist groups.
Republicans immediately opposed the language. They also challenged the legislation’s wide latitude to investigate the causes of the insurgency, saying it should also focus on other types of violence in the country, including riots in towns after the death of George Floyd in the hands of the police last summer.
The bill negotiated by Thompson and Katko deleted Wray’s quotes and it contains much more specific language on the scope of the investigation, keeping the focus on January 6. Republicans, including Trump, have argued that the scope of the investigation is a reason to oppose the bill.
CHANGE OF POSITIONS
McCarthy and McConnell have each suggested in recent months that they might be open to a commission. McCarthy sent Pelosi a letter in February saying any legislation aimed at forming the group should have commissioners evenly divided by party, equal party endorsement on subpoena power, and no predetermined conclusions or conclusions – all of which were satisfied in the final bill. McConnell signaled he might be ready to vote for it just days ago, saying Tuesday he was “open” to the bill.
The pair spoke out against it on Wednesday, and rank-and-file Republican senators gave various shifting explanations as to why they opposed it. Many said they had not read it.
Even when the House passed the bill with the support of nearly three dozen Republicans, it became clear that it will be difficult for Senate Democrats to win the 10 GOP votes they will need to pass. Several Senate Republicans are now saying they believe the commission would be duplicating because two Senate committees are conducting their own bipartisan inquiry.
Yet some support it.
Utah Senator Mitt Romney said Tuesday that given the violent attack, “we need to understand what mistakes were made and how we could prevent them from happening again.” Louisiana Senator Bill Cassidy said he disagreed with McConnell that the bill was Democrat-oriented and “I am inclined to support it.”
THE ASSET FACTOR
The shift in Republican positions came as Trump spoke out against the panel, calling it a “Democratic trap.”
Most Republicans in Congress remain loyal to the former president, even after he told his supporters that day to “fight like hell” to reverse his defeat and march to Capitol Hill as Congress certified Biden’s victory. Rioters brutally beat police officers and broke into the Capitol through windows and doors, sending Republicans and Democrats running for their lives.
While most Republicans condemned the rioters that day and many criticized Trump for his role, some Republicans began to downplay the violence. It has frustrated Democrats and even some in their own party who want to see a full account of what happened.
“I encourage all members of Parliament, Republicans and Democrats, to lay down their swords for once, just for once, and support this bill,” Katko said before the House approved the measure.
Pelosi suggested she was playing a long game in trying to form a commission, reminding reporters on Thursday that it took more than a year to pass legislation creating the 9/11 panel almost two decades ago. “It takes time,” she says.
Pelosi suggested Democrats could form their own separate group in Congress to investigate the riots if they can’t get a commission. But she made it clear that she would prefer a bipartisan and independent body.
At the White House, press secretary Jen Psaki said “we’re not at that point yet” when asked about the possibility of a partisan congressional panel doing the job.
“The attack on Capitol Hill on January 6 was an unprecedented assault on our democracy,” Psaki said, reiterating Biden’s support for the commission. “It requires a full and independent investigation into what happened.”
Mary Clare Jalonick, The Associated Press