After hopes for a bipartisan commission went up in flames on Jan. 6 on Friday, the Democrats may have a new plan to investigate the Capitol attack: a select house committee that would not require Republican support to set up.
Such a committee would differ in several major respects from the proposed bipartisan commission, but could still take steps to ensure accountability for those involved in the insurrection. In particular, a selected committee would be made up of members of Congress rather than outside experts, and the subpoena would work differently – but crucially, it could be created by even a simple majority in the House.
At the same time, a select committee could cast an inevitable partisan shadow on the investigation – and the failure of the independent commission's bill underscores the alarming depth of Republican allegiance to the Big Lie.
Several Democratic members of the House have publicly expressed their support for the backup plan that follows the bipartisan commission's defeat on Friday by 54 votes to 35. The bill would have required 60 votes to bypass the Senate's controversial filibuster.
House spokeswoman Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) has not publicly stated her next move. But in a statement released after Senate Republicans successfully filibustered the bipartisan commission's bill on Friday, Pelosi promised that "Democrats will continue to find the truth."
"The rejection of the truth of the January 6 insurrection by Leader McConnell and the Senate Republicans brings shame to the Senate," she said. "The cowardice of the Republicans to reject the truth of this dark day makes our Capitol and our country less secure."
House spokeswoman Nancy Pelosi after a May 20 press conference at the US Capitol.
Kevin Dietsch / Getty Images
Other Democrats have been more in favor of a select committee: Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-TX), who served as impeachment manager in the second impeachment trial against former President Donald Trump earlier this year, told CNN's Manu Raju Friday that with the failure of the Commission draft law: "Congress should set up a selected committee to fully investigate the causes and consequences of the January 6th uprising."
And Rep. Ted Lieu (D-CA) tweeted Friday about his support for a select committee: “Mitch McConnell believes he can prevent the full truth from coming out. He can't, ”wrote Lieu. "The House can authorize a non-partisan elected congressional committee to investigate the insurrection."
Mitch McConnell believes he can prevent the full truth from coming out. He can not. The House can authorize a non-partisan, elected congressional committee to investigate the insurrection. The selected committee would also have stronger subpoena powers, as GOP members cannot block subpoenas. https://t.co/QRv4FJBOnT
– Ted Lieu (@tedlieu) May 28, 2021
Previously, on January 6, the House passed a bill to create an independent commission with a bipartisan lead, with every Democrat and 35 Republicans voting in favor of the measure.
This bill was the result of bipartisan negotiations between the Chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-MS), and the senior member, Rep. John Katko (R-NY), but was approved by the GOP leadership of the House refused.
Gladys Sicknick, the mother of Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick, who died the day after the Capitol attack, along with her son's partner, Sandra Garza, emotionally asked lawmakers to support the bill.
"Not having a commission on January 6 to investigate exactly what happened is a slap in the face of all officials who did their job that day," Gladys Sicknick Politico said in a statement earlier this week. "I suggest that all congressmen and senators opposed to this bill visit my son's grave in Arlington National Cemetery and reflect on what their hurtful decisions will do to officials who will be there for them in the future. "
Although six Republican Senators joined every Democrat present on Friday to support the bill, the 60-vote threshold required to override the filibuster has not been clarified.
Eleven senators, including two Democrats, did not vote – which was essentially a no given the filibuster rules. Overall, the move received less support from the GOP than efforts in February to convict former President Trump of inciting insurgency (he was eventually acquitted).
Gladys Sicknick, Sandra Garza and DC Metropolitan Police Officer Michael Fanone, injured on January 6, arrive for a May 27 meeting to support a commission to investigate the Capitol attack.
Tom Williams / CQ Appeal, Inc / Getty Images
A selected committee could ensure less GOP disability during the investigation
Technically, filibuster reform – an often-debated option that President Joe Biden has flirted with – would allow Democrats with the lowest majority possible in the Senate to move forward with this bill and other controversial priorities. At least one Democratic Senator – Joe Manchin of West Virginia, the usual suspect – has previously said the filibuster's disposal is prohibited to pass the Jan 6th Commission Act, so Friday's failed vote will almost certainly be the end of the line for that Non-partisan represents commission plan.
In the absence of procedural changes, it is most likely the selected committee time in the House – and there are some key differences between the two plans, including several that could work in favor of the Democrats.
First and foremost, the composition of a potential selection committee would differ significantly from the Commission's original proposal. According to the commission plan drawn up by Thompson and Katko earlier this month, which resembled the bipartisan commission set up after the 9/11 attacks, commissioners should have had "significant expertise in law enforcement, civil rights, civil liberties and privacy," intelligence and security Cybersecurity ”- and no seated members of Congress should have been on the commission.
In addition, the Democratic and Republican leadership could have chosen the same number of commissioners – five each, ten total – with the commission chairman appointed by Pelosi and Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer, and the vice chairman appointed by the Republican leadership.
When it comes to a selected committee, none of it is true. As a House Committee, the entire list of the group would, by definition, be made up of members of the House and it is not necessary that each party have the same number of members. The partisan balance could be determined by the democratic leadership in determining the resolution.
Significantly, this also means that there may be fewer prospects of GOP disability in a selected committee. In contrast to the proposed plan for an independent commission of inquiry, in which the use of subpoena would have required either a majority shareholding or approval between the chairman and vice-chairman – in other words a bipartisan agreement – Democrats would be well on a select committee Able to exercise unilateral subpoena.
This is a big deal because, as Vox's Andrew Prokop wrote earlier this week, it is more than likely that House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) Having occupied their side of a potential commission with commissioners "prone to obstacles and objections." However, with a select committee, Democrats can look forward to the prospect of unhindered action.
In fact, some Republicans voted for the bipartisan commission on Friday with the logic that blocking an independent commission for the GOP would ultimately be worse.
"Without this commission there will be another investigation," said Senator Bill Cassidy (R-LA) in a statement on Friday, his vote for the commission. "But it will be a House Selection Committee set up by Speaker Pelosi, the nature of which is entirely dictated by the Democrats and which will stretch for years."
"We can be more certain that the independent commission will thoroughly investigate this issue (due to the lack of adequate security in the Capitol)," he added.
Capitol Police defend both sides of a U.S. Capitol door on January 6, 2021 as rioters battle for access to the Capitol.
Amanda Voisard / The Washington Post / Getty Images
A house committee may be criticized for being partisan
However, there are drawbacks to a chosen committee – some very real and some still hypothetical.
In the "real" column, there are many reasons for Democrats to be concerned about McCarthy's possible decisions about Republican membership on a select committee. While GOP members don't have as much power to impede as they could in an evenly distributed independent commission, they could still do their best to turn the committee into a circus – and / or spend their time over Scold Antifa and unrelated protest movements.
And with members of the GOP House like Reps Andrew Clyde (R-GA), Louie Gohmert (R-TX) and Paul Gosar (R-AZ), to name a few, who are already grappling with a full apology for insurrection it is difficult to see how the GOP conference would participate in good faith on a select committee.
MP Paul Gosar offers an unequivocal defense of the January 6 insurgents, describing them as "peaceful patriots" being "harassed" by the DOJ pic.twitter.com/b4Ijgvfz3V
– Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) May 12, 2021
Another problem when it comes to a selected committee versus an independent commission is the possible occurrence of partisan intentions that could facilitate the discrediting of the results of a selected committee.
CNN's Manu Raju writes, "Senate Republicans who opposed the commission said that if Pelosi went down that path (of the elected committee) it would be easier to claim that such an investigation would be aimed at winning Democrats in the 2022 midterm elections help."
That is of course possible – and that is what Republicans will certainly say wholeheartedly. However, it is less clear what difference it will really make.
For one thing, there's a good chance the Republicans would have taken the same line on the independent commission of inquiry. Although this plan was the result of negotiations between two parties and was supported by two parties, GOP opponents attacked him as partisan before they finally blocked him on Friday.
"(The Jan 6 commission) is not meant to be a serious question," Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) tweeted last week. "It should be used as (a) partisan weapon."
As Washington Post political reporter Dave Weigel pointed out Thursday on Twitter, the results of an independent committee of inquiry may not carry more weight with voters than those of a select committee.
"The idea that a commission or investigation has to be bipartisan or that voters don't take it seriously exists in DC and disappears once you leave it," he tweeted.
The idea that a commission or investigation has to be bipartisan, or that voters don't take it seriously, exists in DC and disappears once you leave it.
– Dave Weigel (@daveweigel) May 27, 2021
Republicans really don't want to investigate the January 6 attack
Aside from the specific advantages and disadvantages of a select committee versus an independent commission, Friday's defeat of the Commission Act shows more than ever why it is important to conduct an investigation into the January 6 attack.
In particular, the GOP's numerous apologies for rejecting the Commission – that it was too partisan, too narrow, or simply superfluous, to name a few – all sound rather hollow. They obscure the real reason Republicans oppose an investigation: the need to further promote the big lie – the totally false claim that the 2020 election was stolen from Trump.
An Oregon protester at a Stop the Steal rally on November 7, 2020, during which Trump supporters protested President Joe Biden's election victory.
Nathan Howard / Getty Images
As Vox's Zack Beauchamp wrote earlier this month, the Big Lie is increasingly the GOP's only animating idea. A reconsideration of the horror of the January 6th attack, let alone its underlying causes, would run counter to party doctrine – and potentially involve Trump's allies in Congress in supporting and spreading inflammatory misinformation.
As Beauchamp points out,
Polls show that Republican voters share Trump's opinion on the election. A Reuters / Ipsos poll in April is a representative example: 60 percent of Republicans agreed that "Donald Trump's 2020 election was stolen". 55 percent said the result came from "illegal voting or election fraud".
From top to bottom, the GOP has been conquered by the Big Lie. Just as the North Korean state press announces that Kim Jong Il invented the hamburger, Republicans must now announce that Joe Biden's victory was a bit rotten.
The result of this conquest was a massive effort by the GOP conference to whitewash the attack on the Capitol, which killed five people and injured at least 140 police officers. Increasingly, Republicans have postponed the envelope to deny what happened on January 6th. Party members like Rep. Andrew Clyde, a Republican from Georgia, compared the uprising to "a normal tourist visit."
"Watching the television footage of those who entered the Capitol and walked through the Statue Hall showed the people hanging around the stanchions and ropes in an orderly fashion, taking videos and pictures," Clyde said at a committee hearing earlier this month. "You know, if you didn't know that the TV footage was a January 6th video, you'd actually think it was a normal tourist visit."
I want to reiterate how crazy it is for Andrew Clyde to say this. Bonkers. One of the craziest things I've heard about Congress in a dozen years. https://t.co/8Xlzwx2uXl
– Jake Sherman (@JakeSherman) May 13, 2021
The GOP will benefit from covering up the causes – and consequences – of January 6th
As Jake Sherman, founder of Punchbowl News points out, Clyde's claim is a "sucker". But Clyde is by no means alone, and even the Republicans, who haven't gone this far, have cynically calculated that getting to the bottom of the January 6 attack is less important than investigating power in the meantime Recovered in 2022.
"I want our medium-term message to relate to the kinds of things the American people are dealing with: that is jobs and wages, and the economy and national security, safe roads and strong borders – without religiously relishing the 2020 elections" said John Thune, Senate Minority Whip (R-SD) told CNN earlier this month. "Many of our members, and I think many Republicans in the House, want to go forward, not look back."
Thune's argument misses the point, however: an independent commission – or an elected committee after Thune and his colleagues rejected the commission plan – would not devote itself to the legitimation of the elections (although Republicans in Arizona and elsewhere appear to be eager to do so endless).
Rather, progress without delving deeper into the events of January 6 would be the not insignificant section of the GOP who are now pretending the uprising isn't all that bad, and the even larger cohort of Republicans who are campaigning for Let free rein to continue the great lie that fueled the attack.
"In order to make a decision for short-term political gain, at the expense of understanding and recognizing what lay ahead of us on January 6th, we must, in my opinion, be critical of this," said Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK). said one of the six Republican senators who ultimately voted for the commission on Thursday. "Is it really about one election cycle at a time?"