UPDATED, with more details and polls: Senate Republicans on Friday blocked an effort to form a bipartisan commission to investigate the Jan. 6 insurrection, despite pleas from the family of a police officer who died after the riot.
The Senate voted 54-35 to move forward on debate on the bill, short of the 60 needed to overcome a filibuster threat. Six Republicans voted for the commission: Mitt Romney, Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski, Bill Cassidy, Ben Sasse and Rob Portman. Nine Republicans and two Democrats did not vote.
The defeat was expected, as Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell declared his opposition and his view that the commission would be too partisan. Yet the commission as proposed would have included an equal number of Democrats and Republicans.
It’s unclear what will happen next, but one option is for Democrats to form their own select committee to investigate the Jan. 6 siege. In a letter to Senate Democrats, Schumer wrote, “Senators should rest assured that the events of January 6th will be investigated and that as Majority Leader, I reserve the right to force the Senate to vote on the bill again at the appropriate time.”
The greater concern among Republicans appears to have been highlighting the issue in advance of next year’s midterms, as the party out of power traditionally makes gains. Trump, who was impeached for inciting the siege on the Capitol, was opposed to the creation of such a body that would ostensibly investigate his behavior that day.
On Thursday, family members of Capitol Police officer Brian Sicknick met with lawmakers on Capitol Hill and urged them to pass the bill to create the commission. Gladys Sicknick, his mother, said, “usually I just stay in the background and I couldn’t stay quiet today.” She said that her son “had a work ethic second to none.”
She wrote in a letter to senators, “Not having a January 6 Commission to look into exactly what occurred is a slap in the faces of all the officers who did their jobs that day.”
Schumer announced the vote on Friday morning and noted that Republican leaders had negotiated the details of the bill but still opposed it. He said, “If our Republican friends vote against this, what are you afraid of? The truth? Are you afraid Donald Trump’s big lie will be dispelled? Are you afraid of all the misinformation that was poured out will be rebutted by a bipartisan, down the middle commission?”
According to CNN, the Justice Department has charged 450 people in connection with the insurrection.
Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W. Va.), regarded as a swing vote in the Senate, said after the vote that Democrats had accepted the changes to the legislation proposed by Republicans. “Choosing to put politics and the political election ahead of the health of our democracy is unconscionable. And the betrayal of the oath we each take is something they will have to live with.”
McConnell, though, said earlier in the week that there already are multiple investigations ongoing, including at the Justice Department and by Senate committees.
“I do not believe the additional, extraneous ‘commission’ that Democratic leaders want would uncover crucial new facts or promote healing. Frankly, I do not believe it is even designed to,” McConnell said.
But the failure to establish a commission likely will mean that a large share of Republicans will continue to traffic in their own facts about the events that day, in which pro-Donald Trump supporters burst through police barricades and stormed the Capitol as lawmakers were set to certify the Electoral College vote in favor of Joe Biden. More than 140 officers were injured, and two committed suicide in the aftermath.
A Yahoo News/YouGov poll released earlier this week showed that 73 percent pin blame on “left-wing protesters trying to make Trump look bad,” even though authorities and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy have rejected that theory, along with many who have been charged in the insurrection.
But that claim has been part of right wing media from the night of January 6, repeated by a host of commentators including Laura Ingraham. She shared information from a Washington Times article on her show that night that claimed that a facial recognition company had identified antifa activists in the crowd. The story was on its face based on flimsy information, yet Ingraham shared it anyway. When it was debunked the next day and the Washington Times issued a correction, Ingraham shared it on Twitter but not on air.