Republicans poised to block creation of January 6 commission

Republicans in the United States are poised to block the creation of a bipartisan commission to investigate the Capitol riot, despite a last-minute plea from the mother of a Capitol Police officer who lost his life.

Last week, the House of Representatives passed legislation to establish the commission, which would investigate the attack on the Capitol on January 6 and the events surrounding it.

The bill still needs to be approved by the Senate, however.

The chamber is currently split 50/50 between Democrats and Republicans, and Vice President Kamala Harris has the tiebreaking vote. But a simple majority is not enough to advance the legislation. That requires 60 votes, meaning at least 10 Republicans need to support it.

As things stand, just three Republican senators have indicated they will support the bill: Mitt Romney, Lisa Murkowski and Susan Collins. Several others have said they are considering it. The vast majority of Republicans, including Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, are opposed.

Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has scheduled a procedural vote for later today.

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Gladys Sicknick, whose son Brian collapsed after clashing with rioters and died the next day, was in Washington D.C. today personally lobbying Republicans to support the commission.

Mr Sicknick, a Capitol Police officer, suffered two strokes which caused his death.

“I suggest that all congressmen and senators who are against this bill visit my son’s grave in Arlington National Cemetery and, while there, think about what their hurtful decisions will do to those officers who will be there for them going forward,” Mrs Sicknick told the media.

“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.

“Putting politics aside, wouldn’t they want to know the truth of what happened? If not, they do not deserve to have the jobs they were elected to do.”

Mrs Sicknick said she was in D.C. because she “just couldn’t stay quiet anymore”.

She was joined by her son’s longtime girlfriend Sandra Garza and two of his colleagues, officers Harry Dunn and Michael Fanone.

Mr Fanone was brutally assaulted by the rioters on January 6 and suffered a heart attack. He has previously described the confrontation as “the most brutal, savage hand-to-hand combat” he’s ever experienced.

A number of senators agreed to meet with the group. But Mrs Sicknick’s pleas, however compelling, are unlikely to overcome the influence of two other people: Mr McConnell, and former president Donald Trump.

Mr Trump, whose own actions would be scrutinised by the commission, has called it a “Democrat trap” and urged Republicans to oppose it.

You can understand why. The crowd that attacked the Capitol did so in Mr Trump’s name, because it believed his false claims about last year’s election being “stolen” from him. His supporters were attempting to stop Congress from certifying Joe Biden’s victory.

We still know very little about what Mr Trump was doing during the riot. In his impeachment trial earlier this year, his legal team claimed he took “immediate steps” to quell the violence, but offered no details.

Mr Trump’s Department of Defence took hours to approve a request for help from the National Guard, and troops did not arrive at the Capitol until after 5pm.

The commission would have the power to subpoena witnesses and come with up with a more complete account of Mr Trump’s response to the violence. It is in his interest to prevent that from happening.

Why, though, is Mr McConnell opposing the commission? He explained his reasoning on the floor of the Senate earlier today.

“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 do that,” said Mr McConnell.

“There’s no new fact about that day we need the Democrats’ extraneous commission to uncover.

“Obviously, the role of the former president has already been litigated exhaustively in the high profile impeachment trial several months ago.”

His argument is that the commission would be redundant. Mr McConnell pointed to the Justice Department’s ongoing investigation, along with the hundreds of criminal cases being brought against individual rioters.

Of course, there are also political considerations here. If a commission is established, it will keep the events of January 6 in the news, and that could hurt the Republicans’ chances of taking back the House and Senate in next year’s midterm elections.

According to CNN, the Minority Leader has been lobbying his members to vote against the legislation “as a personal favour” to him.

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Mr McConnell’s counterpart, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, made one last attempt to sway Republicans in his own speech today. He dismissed their arguments against the commission as “silly excuses”.

“We have to stand up to the big lie. We must get at the truth and do everything in our power to restore Americans’ faith in our elections,” said Mr Schumer.

“In that light, a national, bipartisan, independent commission to report on the events of January 6 is exactly what the doctor ordered. We have to investigate, expose and report on the truth. We have to establish a trusted record of what really transpired. That’s what this commission is designed to do, in a bipartisan manner.

“The truth of the matter seems to be that Republicans oppose the commission because they fear that it might upset Donald Trump and their party’s midterm messaging.

“Well, too bad. This is too important.”

The Republicans also copped a serve from Senator Joe Manchin, a Democratic moderate who represents the deeply Republican state West Virginia.

“There is no excuse for any Republican to vote against this commission since Democrats have agreed to everything they asked for,” Mr Manchin told reporters.

“Mitch McConnell has made this his political position, thinking it will help his 2022 elections. They do not believe the truth will set you free, so they continue to live in fear.”

President Biden was asked about Republican opposition to the bill during a trip to Ohio. Specifically, during his quick visit to an ice cream shop in Cleveland.

“I can’t imagine anyone voting against establishing a commission on the greatest assault since the Civil War on the Capitol,” Mr Biden said.

“But at any rate, I came for ice cream.”

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