The Senate vote was 54-35 – six less than the 60 needed – to pass a bill passed by the House that would have formed an independent 10-member committee split equally between the two parties. It came a day after emotional appeals to the police commission who battled the mob, the family of a deceased officer and lawmakers on both sides who fled the Capitol’s chambers in the worst attack on the building in two centuries.
Republicans were overwhelmingly but not fully united: six voted with Democrats to move forward. Eleven senators – nine Republicans and two Democrats – missed the vote, an unusually high number absent for one of the most high-profile votes of the year. At least one of the missing Republicans would have voted in favor of the commission’s review, according to his office.
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GOP opposition means questions about responsibility for the attack could continue to be filtered through a partisan lens – in congressional committees – rather than dealt with by an independent external group modeled on the commission that investigated on September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
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“The inquiries will be conducted with or without Republicans,” said Louisiana Senator Bill Cassidy, one of the Republicans who voted to go ahead. “To ensure that the investigations are fair, impartial and fact-based, Republicans must be involved. “
The vote was in part a GOP attempt to appease Trump or avoid retaliation, as it has maintained a firm grip on the party since its loss to Democrat Joe Biden. The former president has told his supporters to ‘fight like hell’ to reverse his pre-siege defeat and continues to wrongly say he won the election – claims shouted by his supporters as they took to storm the building. Trump called the commission’s legislation a “Democratic trap.”
Friday’s vote – the first successful use of a Senate obstruction in the Biden presidency – was emblematic of the deep mistrust between the two parties since the seat, especially among Republicans, with some in the party downplaying violence and defending them. rioters.
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The vote is also likely to galvanize Democratic pressure to end filibuster, an age-old procedure typically used to kill major laws. It takes 60 votes to move forward, rather than a simple majority in the 100-member Senate. With the Senate split 50-50, Democrats needed the support of 10 Republicans to pass the committee bill.
Speaking to fellow Republicans, Democratic Senate Leader Chuck Schumer said after the vote they were “trying to sweep the horrors of that day under the rug” out of “fear or loyalty” to Trump. He left open the possibility of another vote in the future on the creation of a bipartisan commission, saying: “The events of January 6 will be investigated.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi echoed the pledge, saying Democrats “will find the truth.”
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Although the bill to form the commission was passed by the House earlier this month with the support of nearly three dozen Republicans, most GOP senators said they believed the bipartisan panel would be ultimately used against them politically. While initially stating that he was open to the idea, Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell has strongly opposed the idea in recent days, arguing that the panel’s investigation would be partisan despite the even division between party members.
McConnell, who once said Trump was responsible for instigating the mob attack on Capitol Hill, contemptuously told Democrats: “They would like to continue to plead for the former president, in the future. “
Still, six members of McConnell’s caucus challenged him, arguing that an independent look was needed, and Pennsylvania’s Pat Toomey would have raised the total to seven without a family commitment, his office said. In addition to Cassidy, the Republicans who voted to go ahead were Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Susan Collins of Maine, Ben Sasse of Nebraska, Rob Portman of Ohio and Mitt Romney of Utah.
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Murkowski said Thursday night she needed to know more about what happened before and on the day of the attack, and why.
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“The truth is a difficult thing, but we have a responsibility to it,” she said. “We just can’t pretend that nothing bad happened or that people got too excited. Something horrible has happened. And it is important to say it.
Some fellow Republicans disagree strongly, defending the rioters who backed Trump and his false insistence that the election was stolen from him. A House Republican said this month that a video of the insurgency looked like “a normal tourist visit.”
In fact, the attack was the worst on Capitol Hill in 200 years. Protesters halted certification of Biden’s victory over Trump, built a fake gallows outside the Capitol and called for the hanging of Vice President Mike Pence, who oversaw the debates inside. Lawmakers hid on the floor of the House balcony as rioters attempted to break in, and senators evacuated their room just minutes before it was ransacked.
Four of the protesters died that day, including a woman who was shot and killed by police as she tried to break into the chamber of the House. Dozens of police officers were injured and two committed suicide in the days that followed.
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Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick collapsed and died after engaging with rioters, and the video showed two men spraying Sicknick and another officer with a chemical. The Washington medical examiner said he suffered a stroke and died of natural causes.
Senate Democrats angrily asked how Republicans could vote against an independent inquiry.
“An insurgency without consequences – without even a proper investigation – is a dress rehearsal for another insurgency,” said Illinois Senator Dick Durbin, the second Democrat in Congress. “When the Capitol police, who protect us with their lives, ask for this commission, we are ungrateful to refuse.”
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Republicans’ political arguments over the violent siege – which is still raw for many on Capitol Hill almost five months later – have frustrated not only Democrats and some of their fellow Republicans, but also those who repelled the rioters. Sicknick’s mother, girlfriend and two police officers who fought rioters alongside him went from office to office and called on Republicans to back the commission.
Michael Fanone, a Metropolitan Police Department officer who responded to the attack, joined Sicknick’s family Thursday on Capitol Hill. Between meetings with Republican senators, he said a commission is “necessary for us to heal as a nation from the trauma we all experienced that day.” Fanone described being dragged down the steps of the Capitol by rioters who shocked him with a stun gun and beat him.
Sicknick’s mother Gladys Sicknick suggested those opposing the panel visit her son’s grave.
In a CNN interview after the vote, she asked Republicans, “What kind of country do they want? “
Associated Press editors Alan Fram, Colleen Long, and Padmananda Rama contributed to this report.