This week the House Republican and Democratic leaders of the Homeland Security Committee negotiated a deal for a bipartisan, independent commission to investigate the January 6th assault on the Capitol. The agreement made major concessions to the Republicans: the panel would be evenly divided between members appointed by Democrats and Republicans, and the GOP-appointed commissioners would have veto power over any subpoena.
But a balanced commission with veto power wasn’t good enough for the ‘all or nothing,’ uncompromising Republicans. Rep. John Katko, the lead GOP negotiator, urged his colleagues to support the commission bill: “This is about facts. It’s not partisan politics.” Nevertheless, only 35 House Republicans supported the bill while 175 of them voted against it.
Republicans opposed the investigation despite the fact that their lives, as well as their Vice President’s life, were threatened by a deadly mob on January 6th. They argued that the scope of the bill was too narrow and had the potential to interfere with other ongoing investigations. Republicans wanted to dilute the focus on the insurrection by also examining prior violent protests against racism and police brutality, important but unrelated issues.
The truth is Republicans just wish the whole thing would disappear. For them it’s an inconvenient distraction from regaining control of Congress in the 2022 elections. According to Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), the minority whip, “Anything that gets us rehashing the 2020 election, I think, is a day lost on being able to draw contrast between us and the Democrats’ very radical left-wing agenda.”
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell also opposes the bill because he asserts it’s a Democratic “slanted and unbalanced proposal.” Consequently, it has little chance of gaining the Republican support in the Senate necessary to become law.
In fact, Republican objections to the commission were just another subterfuge to try to sweep the attack on the Capitol under the rug. They reject the investigation because they fear two things: Trump’s supporters and the truth.
Two-thirds of GOP voters still strongly support Trump. The former president forcefully opposes an independent commission investigating the January attack on the Capitol. He also fears the truth.
Republicans who go against Trump are subject to his unrelenting attacks and a primary challenge by a Trump loyalist in their next election. These officials are more concerned with holding onto their powerful jobs than they are with an attempt to overthrow our government. At the same time, they are afraid of what an investigation might reveal:
- Did some Republican Congresspeople have prior knowledge of the attack, and/or provide assistance to the insurrectionists?
- Was the assault planned with aid from Trump?
- Why were the Capitol police so ill-prepared?
- Could some Republicans be prosecuted for their roles in the attack?
- Why was there more than a three-hour delay in reinforcements arriving at the Capitol?
- Could the commission’s findings result in a backlash against the Republican Party in next year’s election?
Ironically, if Senate Republicans agree with most of their House colleagues and reject establishing an independent commission, they may put their party in an even deeper hole. With no bipartisan investigation, Speaker Pelosi will be free to create a select committee completely controlled by the Democrats.
Pelosi noted that “I certainly could call for hearings in the House with a majority of the members being Democrats, with full subpoena power, with the agenda being determined by the Democrats, but that’s not the path we have chosen to go…” However, she added, “we will find the truth…if they don’t want to do this, we will.”
Sounds like the Democrats are finally getting ready to play hardball.
Bruce Berlin, J.D.
A retired, public sector ethics attorney, Berlin is the author of Breaking Big Money’s Grip on America (See breakingbigmoneysgrip.com.), the founder of New Mexicans for Money Out of Politics (now RepresentUs New Mexico), a former U.S. Institute of Peace fellow, and the founder and former executive director of The Trinity Forum for International Security and Conflict Resolution. He can be reached at email@example.com.
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