Senate Republicans block bill to investigate Capitol Hill insurgency

U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) speaks to reporters after the Senate Republican Luncheon on Capitol Hill in Washington on May 18, 2021.

Evelyn Hockstein | Reuters

Senate Republicans on Friday blocked a bill that would create an independent commission to investigate the Jan.6 insurgency on Capitol Hill, as Democrats and the GOP diverge on how best to probe the attack on the legislature and to prevent a new attack on the democratic process.

In a 54-35 vote, the measure fell short of the threshold necessary to overcome a filibuster as nearly all GOP senators opposed. Six Republicans voted to move the proposal forward: Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Rob Portman of Ohio, Mitt Romney of Utah and Ben Sasse of Nebraska. All of those senators except Portman voted in February to find former President Donald Trump guilty of inciting an insurgency.

The vote likely stifles the creation of a panel that Democrats and some Republicans have called vital to understanding what led to the violent attempt to disrupt the transfer of power to President Joe Biden. GOP leaders argued the commission could duplicate existing efforts by the Justice Department and Congressional committees to investigate the attack on the pro-Trump mob, which led to five deaths, including that of the officer Police Officer Brian Sicknick.

Sicknick’s mother met with a handful of Republican senators on Thursday and urged them to support the commission.

Republicans have tried to deflect attention from the insurgency – which Trump’s 2020 electoral conspiracy theories have helped fuel – as they seek to regain control of Congress midterm next year . Leading GOP lawmakers, especially in the House, have sought to quell criticism of Trump, who remains the most popular figure in the Republican Party.

“Out of fear or loyalty to Donald Trump, the Republican minority simply kept the American people from knowing the whole truth about January 6,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, DN.Y., said after the vote.

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The Democrat-held House passed bipartisan legislation in a 252-175 vote earlier this month. Thirty-five Republicans backed it, while 175 GOP representatives voted against. Republican House leaders urged their opposition after Rep. John Katko, RN.Y., negotiated the deal with Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss.

The bill failed to win the Republican votes needed to advance in the evenly divided Senate after Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., Urged his caucus to oppose it.

“I will continue to support the real and serious work of our criminal justice system and our own Senate committees,” McConnell said Thursday before the vote. “And I will continue to urge my colleagues to oppose this superfluous layer when the time comes for the Senate to vote.”

The bill would create a 10-person commission to investigate the factors that led to the insurgency. Democratic and Republican leaders would each appoint half of the members, who could not be current government officials.

The panel, which would have subpoena power, would prepare a report on its investigation by the end of the year.

Pushing senators to back the commission’s bill on Thursday, Schumer said the country must stamp out belief in Trump’s baseless claims that widespread fraud led to his defeat in November. He called the lies “cancer” in the GOP.

“We must investigate, expose and report the truth,” he said. “We need to take a reliable picture of what really happened on January 6e and the events that preceded it. This is what this commission is designed to do, in a bipartisan and straightforward manner. “

At least one Senate Republican suggested the group would distract from the party’s midterm election messages. Senate Minority Whip John Thune, RS.D. said earlier this month that “anything that makes us mull over the 2020 election is, I think, a day wasted in order to be able to contrast us and the very radical leftist program of the Democrats. “

Sen. Joe Manchin, the most conservative Democrat in the Senate, has repeatedly urged Republicans to vote to set up the commission. However, he said he still would not join most of his fellow Democrats in removing filibuster, which would allow the party to pass the legislation on its own.

Biden, whose presidential take-over that the pro-Trump mob tried to disrupt, on Thursday scoffed at the prospect of senators voting against the commission’s creation.

“I can’t imagine anyone voting against the creation of a commission on the biggest assault since the civil war on Capitol Hill,” he said.

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