WASHINGTON (thehill): House Democrats weighing their next steps on a Jan. 6 investigation are increasingly pressing Senate leaders to hold another vote on forming an independent commission to examine the Capitol attack.
Senate Republicans last month blocked bipartisan legislation to create a 9/11-style panel to probe the deadly riot, prompting an internal Democratic debate about how best to examine the events from January without eroding the public’s trust in the findings.
As party leaders chew over their options, a number of rank-and-file members say their preferred choice is for Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) to bring the commission vote to the floor for a second time.
“I hope Leader Schumer finds the votes and gets the independent commission back up for a vote,” said Rep. Madeleine Dean (D-Pa.). “That is the best path forward.”
“By far the best solution would be if we could get an independent bipartisan commission passed by Congress,” added Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.).
Democrats in late May came close to achieving that goal when the Senate first considered the House-passed bill. Six Republicans bucked Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and voted with Democrats to launch the independent panel; a seventh, retiring Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.), said he too would have voted “yes” had he been present for the vote.
That math leaves commission proponents just three votes short of the 60 needed to defeat a GOP filibuster in the Senate — an enticingly small number that’s left Democrats to wonder if public pressure might shift the outcome in their favor in the event of a second vote.
“We were three votes shy,” mused Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.). “Are they gettable?”
It’s unclear where those three votes might come from. Retiring Sen. Richard Burr (N.C.) was one of seven Republicans who voted to convict former President Trump weeks after the Jan. 6 attack, but the former Intelligence Committee chairman made clear existing congressional committees — not an independent commission — should investigate Jan. 6. And even some commission supporters are acknowledging the difficulty of eroding Senate opposition.
“That depends on the idea that there is pressure building out in the country on wavering Republicans,” said Raskin. “And I don’t know. I certainly feel it, but I’m from Maryland.
“Usually when McConnell’s whipped his votes, they pretty much stay in place,” Raskin added.
Privately, some Senate Democrats say holding a second vote won’t lead to passage. “The outcome won’t change,” said one Senate Democrat.
But many Democrats believe revisiting the bill is simply smart politics. The Jan. 6 Capitol attack was instigated by Trump, who had convinced many of his followers that November’s election was rigged and urged them to block Congress from certifying his election defeat.
The extraordinary episode has cleaved the Republican Party, pitting Trump’s defenders — including GOP leaders in both chambers — from his Republican critics, who say he’s endangering the very concept of democracy itself.
“We’re living through a moment in our politics … where you have a former president who refused to accept the fact that he lost the election, continues to refuse to accept the fact, provoked an attack on the Capitol while we were counting electoral votes, refused to send help when the attack was underway and has continued to this day to use language that he knows provokes violence,” Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) said during an episode of David Axelrod’s “The Axe Files” podcast that was released Monday.
Trump’s belief that he’ll be reinstated as president by August, Cheney added, is “a very real threat, and it’s an ongoing threat. And I think that President Trump’s continued activities demonstrate the falsity of the idea that if we simply ignore him, he’ll go away.”
Democrats, by forcing another vote on the Jan. 6 commission proposal — an idea GOP leaders had initially endorsed — would refocus Washington on the events that day, force Republicans to take another tough vote and highlight GOP divisions on the issue.
“We have to ask the Republican members who voted ‘no’ — House side, Senate side — what are they afraid of? And more importantly now, what are they covering up?” said Dean, a prosecutor in Trump’s second impeachment trial.
Following the Senate GOP’s vote to block the commission, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) floated four different avenues Democrats might pursue to ensure that the mob attack of Jan. 6 gets a full inspection. The list included a second Senate vote on the existing bill, investigations by sitting House committees and the creation of a special congressional committee dedicated to the topic — an option that also has a growing following among Democrats.
“There are other proposals being circulated, including punting the matter to the Biden White House,” Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-N.J.) wrote Monday in an op-ed in the North Jersey Record. “But the assault on the Capitol was an attack on Congress and there can be no substitute for our own probe into the event.”
Yet some Democrats are questioning whether lawmakers, who were themselves a target of the Jan. 6 violence, are best suited to lead an inquiry into it. For these voices, an independent panel of outside experts — people further removed from the attack — is the better choice.
“It takes it out of the hands of politicians, electeds, people who were here, who were victims and witnesses,” Dean said. “I’m happy to come in and testify, but I don’t think we should be overseeing the facts and circumstances entirely.”
Rep. Mary Gay Scanlon, another Pennsylvania Democrat, delivered a similar message.
“I do think we need a separate committee to do it because the jurisdictions are so fragmented, and there are certain things that neither a criminal investigation nor the various committee investigations are really empowered to do,” she said, advocating to “give the Senate another chance to do the right thing.”
Schumer, for his part, has not divulged his strategy, but nor is he ruling out another Senate vote on the commission proposal.
“Senators should rest assured that the events of January 6th will be investigated and that as Majority Leader, I reserve the right to force the Senate to vote on the bill again at the appropriate time,” he wrote in a letter to fellow Democrats on May 28, the same day Republicans blocked the bill.
Schumer’s office declined to provide an update on Monday, referring instead back to the letter. House Democrats, meanwhile, say they’ll press ahead with an investigation — whatever form it takes.
“It’s not over; that is an historical imperative,” said Raskin. “I mean, can you imagine any other country on Earth being attacked in their federal parliament and not conducting an inquiry into how it happened?”