Politics & Policy

House Committee Reaches Deal on Bipartisan Commission to Investigate Capitol Riot

Members of U.S. Capitol Police part through a crowd in riot gear as people rally outside of the Supreme Court in support of President Trump in Washington, November 14, 2020. (Leah Millis/Reuters)

House lawmakers have reached a deal to form a bipartisan commission to investigate the “facts and circumstances” surrounding the January 6 Capitol riot, the House Homeland Security Committee announced Friday.

The commission will be made up of ten commissioners, five of whom, including the chair, will be appointed by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.) and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.). The rest, including the vice-chair, will be appointed by House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R., Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.)

“The commission will be charged with studying the facts and circumstances of the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol as well as the influencing factors that may have provoked the attack on our democracy,” the committee said.

“Commissioners must have significant expertise in the areas of law enforcement, civil rights, civil liberties, privacy, intelligence and cybersecurity,” it added. “Current government officers or employees are prohibited from appointment.”

The commission will have the authority to issue subpoenas, though both the chair and vice-chair would need to sign off. A vote by a majority of the commission’s members can approve the issuance of a subpoena, as well.

The commission is tasked with creating a final report with findings and recommendations to “prevent future attacks on our democratic institutions” by December 31, 2021.

House Homeland Security Chair Benny Thompson (D., Miss) negotiated the deal with ranking member John Katko (R., N.Y.).

“Inaction — or just moving on — is simply not an option,” Thompson said in a statement. “The creation of this commission is our way of protecting the U.S. Capitol. After all, the Capitol is not just a historic landmark, it is where our constituents come to see their democracy in action.”

“As such, we owe it to the Capitol police and all who enter our citadel of democracy to investigate the attack,” he added.

It took months to reach a deal on the creation of a January 6 commission as Republicans insisted that any investigation must look at other forms of recent political violence, including the Black Lives Matter riots that took place in cities across the country last summer. 

Democrats and some Republicans, including Representative Liz Cheney (R., Wyo), have argued that a broader scope would only distract from a real investigation into the Capitol riot.

Cheney, who was ousted from her GOP leadership role over her insistence on calling out Trump’s lies about the election, joined Democrats in calling for the formation of a commission to investigate the Capitol attack.

While GOP leaders said her rebuke of Trump served as a distraction from the party’s efforts to focus on moving forward and winning back the House and Senate in the 2022 midterm elections, Cheney has said a January 6 commission “threatens” some Republicans who may have “played a role” in the event.

“I…think there is real concern among a number of members of my own party about a January 6 commission,” Cheney said on NBC’s The Today Show on Thursday. “I’ve been very public that that commission needs to be bipartisan, it needs to look only at January 6 and the events leading up to it, not at the BLM and antifa riots last summer.”

“I think that that kind of intense, narrow focus threatens people in my party who may have been playing a role they should not have been playing,” she added.

Asked whether there were any lawmakers “complicit” in the riot, Cheney responded, “I don’t want to go that far.”

“Each time we’ve had something happen in this country that is that kind of a crisis, we had a commission, and there’s no reason why there should be any resistance to doing so in this case,” Cheney said.

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