GOP senators thwart Capitol Hill riot commission

Sen. Mike Lee of Utah was among GOP lawmakers who rallied Friday to vote down a proposal to impanel a bipartisan commission to investigate the Jan. 6 riot on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C.

WASHINGTON, D.C. – With the support of Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT), Senate Republicans narrowly defeated an effort to begin the process of impaneling a national commission to investigate the January 6th riot on Capitol Hill.

Despite promises that the proposed investigation would be a non-partisan effort, Republicans condemned the proposal as another “political witch-hunt” like the Democrats two abortive attempts to impeach former President Donald Trump.

“The events of January 6th were tragic and there are many questions that remain to be answered,” Lee said after the crucial vote. “The commission the Democrats attempted to establish today contained broad investigative mandates even to areas outside the events of January 6th, combined with broad subpoena power and a flawed structure, making it a recipe for a political witch-hunt …

“Establishing a kangaroo commission to politicize the events of that day will neither help us deliver justice nor get to the bottom of the truth.”

The vote on Friday was a procedural one to determine whether floor debate on the need for the January 6th Commission would begin in the Senate. Advocates of the investigation needed 60 votes to advance their proposal, but fell short of that goal.

The final vote count was 54 to 35, with 11 senators abstaining, including nine Republicans.

In the evenly divided upper chamber of Congress, Democrats needed 10 GOP members to abandon party loyalty. But only six Republicans joined forces with the commission advocates, including Sen. Mitt Romney, (R-UT).

After the vote, Romney told reporters that a thorough investigation into “the attack on our democracy” was needed.

But some Republicans on Capitol Hill even dispute the seriousness of what Democrats typically call “the January 6th insurrection.”

Tearing a page of out of the Democrats’ political playbook, Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) told the inside-the-Beltway journal Roll Call that the so-called “insurrection” was just a peaceful protest that was disrupted by a group of agitators who breached the Capitol.

Advocates of the proposed January 6th commission in the House of Representatives and Senate argue that a bipartisan investigation of that event is necessary just as a similar inquiry into the terrorist attack on Sept. 11, 2001 was needed.

But Republicans with long memories counter that the recommendations of the supposedly non-partisan 9/11 Commission were used against former President George W. Bush in the 2004 general election.

The commission plan defeated by GOP senators was originally crafted in the House of Representatives. It called for a 10-member panel to be appointed by congressional leaders and evenly split between Republicans and Democrats.

The criteria for membership on the commission was to be expertise in at least two of the following areas: the law, law enforcement, civil rights, civil liberties, privacy issues, intelligence gathering, the military services, counter-terrorism and cyber-security.

The commission members would have been charged to probe the causes of the January 6th disturbance and provide recommendations to prevent future attacks by Dec. 31, 2021.

The House version of the commission legislation passed by a vote of 252-175 on May 19, but only 35 Republicans supported the measure.

After Friday’s vote, Republican leaders in the Senate called the proposed commission unnecessary, given the ongoing criminal investigation by the Department of Justice and similar probes by congressional committees.

In a prepared statement issued Friday, Lee supported that view, saying that “multiple investigations underway and oversight by Senate committees will uncover the unanswered questions” about the events of January 6th.

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