U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) speaks after the Republican Senate luncheon on Capitol Hill in Washington Jan.
Evelyn Hockstein | Reuters
Senate Republicans on Friday blocked a bill that would set up an independent commission to investigate the January 6 insurrection in the U.S. Capitol as Democrats and the GOP disagree on how best to investigate the legislature attack and another attack on the democratic process can be prevented.
With 54 to 35 votes, the measure did not reach the threshold required to overcome a filibuster, as almost all GOP senators were against it. Six Republicans voted for the proposal: Bill Cassidy from Louisiana, Susan Collins from Maine, Lisa Murkowski from Alaska, Rob Portman from Ohio, Mitt Romney from Utah and Ben Sasse from Nebraska. All of these senators, with the exception of Portman, voted in February to hold former President Donald Trump guilty of inciting a riot.
The vote likely undermines the creation of a Democratic panel, and some Republicans have said it is important to understand what led to the violent attempt to disrupt the transfer of power to President Joe Biden. GOP leaders have claimed the commission could duplicate existing efforts by the Department of Justice and Congressional committees to investigate the pro-Trump mob attack that resulted in five deaths, including Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick.
Sicknick’s mother met with a handful of Republican senators Thursday and urged them to support the commission.
Republicans have tried to divert attention from the uprising – to which Trump’s 2020 election conspiracy theories contributed – as they seek to regain control of Congress in next year’s midterm elections. Top GOP lawmakers, especially in the House of Representatives, have set themselves the goal of suppressing criticism of Trump, who remains the Republican Party’s most popular figure.
“Out of fear or loyalty to Donald Trump, the Republican minority just prevented the American people from learning the full truth about January 6,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, DN.Y., said after the vote.
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The Democratic-owned House of Representatives passed the bipartisan bill earlier this month with 252-175 votes. 35 Republicans supported it, while 175 GOP officials voted against. House Republican leaders pushed for resistance after Rep. John Katko, RN.Y. negotiated the deal with Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss.
The bill failed to win the Republican votes it needed to move forward in the evenly divided Senate after minority leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., Urged his faction to oppose it.
“I will continue to support the real, 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 shift if the Senate has to vote.”
The bill would set up a 10-person commission to study the factors that led to the uprising. The Democratic and Republican leaders would each appoint half of the members who could not be current government officials.
The subpoenaed panel would report on its investigation by the end of the year.
Schumer urged senators Thursday to back the commission law, saying the country must erase belief in Trump’s unsubstantiated claims that widespread fraud led to his defeat in November. He called the lies a “cancer” in the GOP.
“We have to investigate, uncover, and report the truth,” he said. “We need to keep a trustworthy record of what really happened on January 6th and the events that preceded it. That is what this commission is supposed to do in a bipartisan, direct way.”
At least one top Senate Republican has suggested the panel detract from the party’s mid-term election messages. Senate minority whip John Thune, RS.D., said earlier this month that “anything that makes us rewarm the 2020 elections is, in my opinion, a lost day to contrast us with the very radical one to pull the left agenda of the Democrats. “
Senator Joe Manchin, the most Conservative Democrat in the Senate, has repeatedly called on Republicans to vote in favor of setting up the commission. However, he said he still would not team up with most of his Democratic counterparts to get rid of the filibuster that would allow the party to pass the law on its own.
Biden, whose takeover of the presidency the pro-Trump mob sought to disrupt, scoffed Thursday at the prospect of senators voting against the commission’s establishment.
“I can’t imagine anyone voting against setting up a commission for the biggest attack on the Capitol since the Civil War,” he said.
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