GOP Leaders Move to Blow Up Bipartisan January 6 Commission

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell address reporters outside the White House after meeting with President Joe Biden on May 12, 2021. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Days after members of Congress announced that they had finally reached an agreement on a bipartisan commission to investigate the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, both House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell came out against a bill that would establish the panel, almost certainly dooming its chances of becoming law.

Anonymous officers from the United States Capitol Police responded by issuing a statement addressed to members of Congress on Wednesday afternoon, expressing “profound disappointment with the recent comments from both chambers’ minority leaders expressing no need for a January 6 commission.”

“It is inconceivable that some of the Members we protect would downplay the events of January 6,” the letter reads. “Member safety was dependent upon the heroic actions of the USCP.”

Though the letter appeared on official letterhead, Politico’s Olivia Beavers reported that it was not intended as an official statement from the entire U.S. Capitol Police force. The department released a statement saying it could not confirm the origin of the document, emphasizing that the force “does NOT take positions on legislation.” A spokesperson for Representative Jamie Raskin, whose office circulated the letter, said it represents the views of 40–50 officers.

On Wednesday evening, the bill to establish the commission passed the House 252-175, with 35 Republicans — including the 10 who voted to impeach President Trump the second time — voting in favor of the idea. Last week, the House Committee on Homeland Security announced that it had come to an agreement on H.R. 3233, which would establish a ten-person panel with members appointed by leaders in both parties.

One the 175 Republicans who voted for the bill was Mike Pence’s brother, Greg Pence, the congressman for Indiana’s 6th District. Despite the threatening chants to “hang” the former vice-president on January 6, Greg Pence released a statement on Wednesday in staunch opposition to the idea: “Hanging Judge Nancy Pelosi is hellbent on pushing her version of partisan justice complete with a hand-picked jury that will carry out her pre-determined political execution of Donald Trump before law enforcement officials have completed their investigation.”

Though the bill cleared the House with considerable Republican support, McConnell’s opposition means it’s unlikely to attract the 10 Republican votes needed to overcome a 60-vote filibuster. The Senate minority leader had previously suggested that he was open to hearing arguments in favor of the commission, but he came out against the bill hours before the House vote, calling it a “slanted and unbalanced proposal” from Democrats.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy had made his views on the matter clear Tuesday, releasing a statement that claimed House Speaker Nancy Pelosi “refused to operate in good faith” on the framework for the commission and suggested that such a panel could interfere with ongoing probes and legal proceedings.

McCarthy also criticized Democrats for not agreeing to widen the scope of the January 6 commission to investigate “the political violence that has struck American cities,” a reference to Republicans’ demands that the probe also focus on antifa and the sporadic violence that occurred during last summer’s Black Lives Matter protests.

“Given the political misdirections that have marred this process, given the now duplicative and potentially counterproductive nature of this effort, and given the Speaker’s shortsighted scope that does not examine interrelated forms of political violence in America, I cannot support this legislation,” McCarthy said.

Later on Tuesday, former president Donald Trump said in a statement that congressional Republicans shouldn’t support the commission, which he called a “Democratic trap” and dismissed as “just more partisan unfairness.”

“Hopefully, Mitch McConnell and Kevin McCarthy are listening!” he added.

GOP sources told CNN that as many as 40 House Republicans may back the bill despite McCarthy and Trump’s objections, as it’s been endorsed by the bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus. The Minority Leader has been accused of throwing a GOP colleague under the bus, as he had tasked Representative John Katko, the ranking member on the Homeland Security Committee, with negotiating a deal with Democratic committee chair Bennie Thompson.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said, “This shows how difficult it is to negotiate with Republicans. If the Republican leaders are just going to throw their lead negotiators under the bus, why do they even participate in negotiations at all?”

He added, “We’ll see what the House vote is like, but I want to be clear, I will put the January 6 commission legislation on the floor of the Senate for a vote. Period.”

In the immediate aftermath of the January 6 riot that left five people dead, Republican leaders took a much different tone when talking about the siege.

“The president bears responsibility for Wednesday’s attack on Congress by mob rioters. He should have immediately denounced the mob when he saw what was unfolding,” McCarthy said the week following the attack, when Congress was considering impeachment.

He continued, “These facts require immediate action by President Trump — accept his share of responsibility, quell the brewing unrest, and ensure that President-elect Biden is able to successfully begin his term. And the president’s immediate action also deserves congressional action, which is why I think a fact-finding commission and a censure resolution would be prudent.”

GOP Leaders Move to Blow Up Bipartisan January 6 Commission