Politics & Policy

McConnell Opposes Bipartisan Commission to Investigate Capitol Riot

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) said Wednesday that he will not support legislation to form a bipartisan commission tasked with investigating the facts and circumstances surrounding the January 6 Capitol riot.

“After careful consideration, I’ve made the decision to oppose the House Democrats’ slanted and unbalanced proposal for another commission to study the events of January the 6th,” McConnell said on the Senate floor.

McConnell’s opposition will imperil the legislation’s odds of advancing through the Senate.

The GOP leader’s opposition came after he told reporters on Tuesday that Senate Republicans were “undecided” about the commission and that they wanted to “read the fine print.”

“If it’s gonna go forward, it needs to be clearly balanced and not tilted one way or the other so we have an objective evaluation,” he said.

On Tuesday, McConnell expressed two concerns: that the commission could get in the way of existing federal prosecutions of rioters and that the commission, as proposed, would appear to grant the Democrat-chosen chairman the authority to hire and fire its staff.

Now that McConnell has come out against the legislation, it is more likely that other Republican senators will follow suit and block the bill from advancing. It will need to clear a 60-vote threshold in the evenly divided Senate to move forward.

Seven Senate Republicans voted to impeach former President Trump after a mob of his supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol on January 6. Those senators are likely to back the commission. However, McConnell’s opposition to the bill will likely encourage other Senate Republicans to vote against it.

McConnell’s opposition comes after House lawmakers reached a deal to form a bipartisan commission to investigate the “facts and circumstances” surrounding the January 6 Capitol riot on Friday. 

The commission would be made up of ten commissioners, five of whom, including the chair, would be appointed by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.) and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.). The rest, including the vice-chair, would 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 House Homeland Security 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 would 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 would be 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.).

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.

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