WASHINGTON – Republican obstruction of an independent commission to investigate the Jan.6 attack on Capitol Hill on Friday sparked outrage from Senate Democrats, ranging from Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer to centrist Senator from West Virginia Joe Manchin.
It was the first bill to die by a minority filibuster during the days of President Joe Biden, who carries warning signs for the rest of his Senate agenda, where Democrats are in charge but need 10 Republicans to advance most laws under existing rules. .
Democrats have the power to change these rules but are not unanimous that he would demand from the 50-member caucus. And when the Senate returns from a week-long Memorial Day recess, Schumer appears ready to test its members.
He has promised votes on the Paycheck Fairness Act and a bill to protect voting rights – both have viable paths to a majority vote, but not 60 to defeating a filibuster. He said LGBTQ rights and gun laws could also emerge.
“We have seen the limits of bipartisanship and the resurgence of Republican obstructionism,” Schumer told reporters after the Jan. 6 committee vote, which won 54 senators. Six Republicans crossed the aisle.
When it comes to changing the filibuster rules, the New York Democrat has said “everything is on the table.”
“I think the events of the last few days have probably made it clear to everyone in our caucus that a lot of our fellow Republicans are unwilling to work with us on a lot of issues, even on issues where we try to be. bipartite, ”Schumer said. mentionned.
Of course, it’s not just the majority leader. Two vocal supporters of the 60-vote threshold, Manchin and Senator Kyrsten Sinema, D-Arizona, will not be easily convinced.
But Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is testing their limits.
Among Democrats, the debate over filibuster is whether it promotes bipartisanship or hinders necessary action.
McConnell, who was under pressure from former President Donald Trump, succeeded in pushing his caucus to obstruct the commission’s January 6 legislation. The Kentucky Republican feared it would be used against his party politically in the 2022 midterm election, as it was Trump supporters who stormed the Capitol.
Although McConnell did not speak publicly on Friday, he argued Democrats would use the commission as a vehicle to “keep the former president happy in the future,” while Republicans believe voters “in the fall of 2022 should focus on what this administration is doing for the country. “
As senators voted on Friday, Manchin and McConnell exchanged words in the Senate.
“It is not, for me, a political disagreement,” Manchin told reporters afterwards. “He doesn’t see it that way. He sees it strictly as politics, no matter what – everything is politics. And I said, I’m sorry, I don’t agree. And he knows it.
In a statement, Manchin called the obstruction of the commission “unacceptable” after the Democrats “accepted the changes proposed by the Republicans” on how to structure a commission.
“It’s just not possible”
Several Republicans disagreed with McConnell.
Senator Bill Cassidy, R-La., One of the defectors, argued that blocking the bill would not stop a January 6 investigation – it would simply allow House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to do so without giving the GOP equal representation on the panel. .
“Without this commission, there will always be an investigation,” Cassidy said. “But it will be a select House committee set up by President Pelosi – the nature of which will be dictated entirely by Democrats and will last for years.” “
But a Democrat-led inquiry would not have the additional legitimacy that a bipartisan inquiry might have given to GOP voters. McConnell’s systematic obstruction keeps him out of Trump’s sights in the event a GOP-backed commission uncovers unflattering facts about the former president or his supporters.
For Democrats, this raises a haunting question: If the two parties cannot even agree to inquire about a violent attack on the U.S. Capitol that put their lives in danger, what hope is there? for bipartisanship on ideologically contentious issues?
“This is just the last nail in the coffin of Republicans completely selling their soul to Donald Trump and his perceived base,” said Jim Messina, former campaign manager and White House aide to former President Barack Obama .
Messina urged Biden not to repeat Obama’s mistake by relying on GOP cooperation for his agenda. On Capitol Hill, many Democrats share his point of view, but not all.
“This is the preferred way to go,” Schumer said of bipartisan cooperation. “It’s just not possible in many different areas with this Republican Senate. In the short term, he said, using a special budget process to pass infrastructure spending without GOP votes is “definitely a consideration.”
One way or another, Schumer said, the Democratic-led Congress will take “big and bold action.”