If legislation to establish an independent commission fails in the Senate, key Democratic chairmen in both chambers of Congress are reluctant to launch committee investigations into the events leading up to the attack on the United States Capitol on Jan. 6.
Instead, Democratic lawmakers are already floating the idea of forming a select committee, similar to the one established in 2014 by the House Select Committee on Benghazi, to investigate who instigated the attack and how. Unlike the bipartisan commission approved by the House on Wednesday, such a panel would be controlled by Democrats. That bill appears unlikely to pass in the Senate.
House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) says Congress needs to get to the bottom of what fueled the Jan. 6 violence, but he is concerned that a lengthy investigation will interfere with his own panel’s busy legislative and oversight agenda. He also stated that if the Senate fails to reach an agreement, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) “could decide to appoint a select committee, as Congress has done in other situations, and go from there.”
Chairman of the Senate Homeland Security Committee Gary Peters (D-Mich.) says he does not intend to conduct another investigation after his panel, which is working with the Senate Rules Committee, issues its report on the Jan. 6 security failures early next month.
If the bipartisan commission established on Jan. 6 fails to get off the ground, Peters says “we’re not contemplating” a second investigation into Trump and his advisers’ role in fomenting an attempt to overturn the results of the 2020 election.
Other Democratic chairmen express concern that a multi-committee investigation into the Jan. 6 attacks, which is expected to last months, will derail their legislative agenda. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Chairman of the Senate Banking Committee, told “Julie Mason Mornings” on POTUS, SiriusXM, that he wants to stay focused on President Biden’s legislative agenda.
If these chairmen are unwilling to move forward, and if the Senate rejects the House commission bill, Democratic leaders may be pressed to support a select committee to investigate the Capitol attack. On Wednesday, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) proposed a select committee, telling reporters, “We are going to pursue this one way or the other.”
Democrats suffered a setback Thursday when Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC), one of seven Senate Republicans who voted to convict Trump on an impeachment article in February, said he would oppose legislation establishing a bipartisan commission.
“These investigations are being led by the committees with jurisdiction, and I believe, as I always have, that this is the proper course of action. I don’t think it’s necessary or wise to create a new commission “he said, referring to a joint investigation being conducted by the Senate Rules and Homeland Security Committees into the Capitol attack’s security flaws.
A handful of Senate Republicans may vote for an independent commission, but Democrats would need 10 GOP votes to overcome a filibuster, which does not appear likely now that McConnell has come out strongly against the House bill.
Sen. Mike Rounds (R-S.D.), who initially stated that he would support the bipartisan commission, is now telling reporters that he will vote “no.” Rounds also stated that the Rules and Homeland Security Committees are already investigating the January 6 attack.
Even Republican senators who are expected to vote in favor of an independent commission on Jan. 6, such as Sens. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) and Susan Collins (R-Maine), have not yet decided how to vote and are pushing for changes to the House bill. Democrats are warning their colleagues that even if they vote against the House bill, further investigation into the Jan. 6 attack will take place.
“We must find a way to conduct a thorough and appropriate investigation into what occurred on January 6. This commission is the most effective way to accomplish that “Senator Chris Coons (D-Del. ), a close Biden ally, agreed. “If Republicans can’t find a way to support it, we’ll have to go through a committee process, an independent committee process, or a special committee process.”
Coons called Democratic colleagues’ concerns that a Jan. 6 investigation would take precedence over regular committee work “reasonable.”