WASHINGTON — The House voted Wednesday to create an independent commission on the deadly Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, sending the legislation to an uncertain future in the Senate as Republican leaders work to stop a bipartisan investigation that is opposed by former President Donald Trump.
U.S. Rep. Dina Titus (D-Nev.) noted the compromises in the House of Representatives to get the legislation passed.
“The legislation to create this commission was forged out of a bipartisan compromise between the top Democrat and Republican on the Homeland Security Committee. Minority Leader (Kevin) McCarthy made three requests regarding the composition of this commission and Democrats agreed to all of them,” Titus said. “Under this bill, both sides would have equal representation on the commission and equal subpoena power.
Democrats say an independent investigation is crucial to reckoning what happened that day, when a violent mob of Trump’s supporters smashed into the Capitol to try and overturn President Joe Biden’s victory. Modeled after the investigation into the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, the legislation would establish an independent, 10-member commission that would make recommendations by the end of the year for securing the Capitol and preventing another insurrection.
The bill passed the House on Wednesday 252-175, with 35 Republicans voting with Democrats in support of the commission, defying Trump and House Republican leader McCarthy. Trump issued a statement urging Republicans to vote against it, calling the legislation a “Democrat trap.”
Titus said, “We need a nonpartisan commission of security experts to prevent that from ever happening again. While our democracy was under assault, a police officer lost his life and many others were injured trying to keep members of Congress, staff, and the press out of harm’s way.”
Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell is trying to prevent defections among his own ranks, echoing McCarthy’s opposition in a Senate floor speech Wednesday morning. Both men claimed the bill was partisan, even though membership of the proposed commission would be evenly split between the parties.
“Senator McConnell’s attempt to block this nonpartisan commission is a disgrace to our democracy,” Titus said in a statement released Wednesday. “The only reason to oppose an independent fact-finding commission is if you are afraid of the facts.”
Rep. Steven Horsford (D-Nev.) released a statement after voting for the legislation:
“The January 6, 2021 insurrection was an assault on our very democracy. I will never forget the fear from that day — or the images of terrified staffers and members barricading themselves against domestic terrorists inside the nation’s Capitol.Congressman Steven Horsford
As a result of the insurrection, five people died needless deaths. In the aftermath, thousands of National Guard troops were deployed to protect the Capitol and allow our government to continue working for the American people.
To move forward and heal, Americans need an objective account of the causes and consequences of the insurrection. I’m heartened by today’s bipartisan vote to establish a national commission to investigate the events of January 6 and prevent future attacks.
The January insurrection has become an increasingly fraught topic for Republicans, with a growing number in the party downplaying the severity of the worst attack on the Capitol in more than 200 years. While most Republicans voted against forming the commission, only a few spoke on the floor against it. And the handful of Republicans who backed the commission spoke forcefully.
“This is about facts — it’s not partisan politics,” said New York Rep. John Katko, the top Republican on the House Homeland Security Committee who negotiated the legislation with Democrats. He said “the American people and the Capitol Police deserve answers, and action as soon as possible to ensure that nothing like this ever happens again.”
Rep. Fred Upton, R-Mich., said that Jan. 6 “is going to haunt this institution for a long, long time” and that a commission is necessary to find the truth about what happened. He recalled that he “heard the shouts, saw the flash-bangs, smelled the gas on that sorry day.”
Democrats grew angry as some Republicans suggested the commission was only intended to smear Trump.
“We have people scaling the Capitol, hitting the Capitol Police with lead pipes across the head, and we can’t get bipartisanship? What else has to happen in this country?” shouted Rep. Tim Ryan, D-Ohio, on the floor just before the vote. He said the GOP opposition is “a slap in the face to every rank and file cop in the United States.”
The vote was yet another test of Republican loyalty to Trump, whose grip on the party remains strong despite his election defeat. House Republicans booted Wyoming Rep. Liz Cheney from their leadership last week for her criticism of Trump’s false claims, installing a Trump loyalist in her place. Cheney, in turn, suggested to ABC News that a commission could subpoena McCarthy because he spoke to Trump during the insurrection.