The House of Representatives voted largely along the party lines on Wednesday to set up a special committee to investigate the January 6 attack on the Capitol by a pro-Trump crowd.
The attack came while Congress was upholding the 2020 presidential results, forcing Vice President Mike Pence and hundreds of lawmakers to flee. Five people died in or in the days after the riot, and two police officers died of suicide as a result of the violence. At least 140 officers were injured. More than 500 people were arrested, among other things, for conspiracy and illegal entry.
“The level of violence that day was shocking,” said House spokeswoman Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco). “But it is equally shocking to remember why this violence occurred – to block the certification of an election and the peaceful transfer of power that are the cornerstone of our democracy.”
The house voted 220 to 190.
Republican leaders urged their members to vote against the bill, saying the existing committees had the authority to investigate and that the committee was redundant and a distraction.
Pelosi invited a Capitol Police Officer and two Metropolitan Police Officers, who had been vocal about their hand-to-hand combat experiences on Jan. 6, to watch the House of Representatives debate and vote from the room. She also invited Gladys Sicknick and Sandra Garza, the mother and partner of Officer Brian Sicknick, who died after the attack, respectively.
Two Republicans joined the Democrats and voted to create the committee, MPs Adam Kinzinger from Illinois and Liz Cheney from Wyoming.
Cheney issued a statement calling the committee “our only remaining option.”
“It is right to be careful about an openly partial investigation,” she said. “But Congress is obliged to fully investigate the worst attack on our Capitol since 1814.”
After voting yes, Cheney went to the gallery of the house to speak to the officers present and his family. Several Democrats, including Pelosi, also went to the gallery to meet with them.
Rep. David Valadao (R-Hanford), the only California Republican to vote to set up the independent commission last month, voted with the other Republicans in the delegation on Wednesday. Valadao said in a statement that he still believes that an independent commission is the best way to go and that the investigation would drag on. He said lawmakers present during the attack could not be expected to complete an impartial investigation.
“The American people deserve to know the truth about what happened that day,” said Valadao, “and now they’re going to get stuck with soundbites and theatrics. That will only divide us further. ”
The vote on the establishment of the House committee comes more than a month after a bipartisan attempt to set up an independent commission to investigate what led to the attack and how it was possible not to get enough Republican votes in the Senate.
Rep. Mary Gay Scanlon (D-Pa.) Pointed out that the bill to create an independent commission was bipartisan and that the Democrats would have agreed to almost anything the Republicans asked for. “Still, her leadership withdrew her support at the last moment and would not take yes for an answer,” she said.
The House of Representatives approved the Independent Commission bill with the assistance of 35 Republicans. It was negotiated with the permission of House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Bakersfield), who urged GOP colleagues to oppose the final version as they did not have a fuller investigation into the violence surrounding the Black Lives Matter protests in Summer 2020 and others contained matters. Pelosi and the Democrats argue that this is too far outside of the Commission’s purpose. The bill then failed to get the 10 Republican votes it needed to start a debate in the Senate.
Pelosi had waited several weeks to see if the Republicans could be influenced before setting up a House Electoral Committee, which, unlike the Commission, would consist of members of Congress.
Republicans at the time said they were concerned that the independent commission’s investigation could drag on until 2022 and disrupt the midterm elections. According to the law, the commission should have completed a report by the end of 2021. The House Committee, set up on Wednesday, has no such deadline to complete its work, which could drag on for months if witnesses refuse to cooperate.
The Democrats throw the committee a way forward towards a resolution. Republicans consider it a predetermined outcome to blame former President Trump.
“You don’t want to get the truth, but we will insist we know the truth,” said Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.).
“The Democrats refuse to put together a really non-partisan commission,” replied MEP Michelle Fischbach (R-Minn.). “Democrats bring partisanship to the investigation.”
A committee made up of members of Congress could make it easier for some to dismiss its findings.
It is expected that attention will quickly shift to which members are selected for the 13-member committee. The bill allows Pelosi to appoint the chairman and eight committee members, with a Pelosi adviser suggesting that she may have a Republican among her chosen members. The other five committee members will be selected “in consultation with” McCarthy, which means Pelosi could turn them down.
Republicans have repeatedly questioned the political balance of the committee and Pelosi’s power to select its members. The house rules allow the speaker to appoint all members when forming a select committee. The partisan composition of the committee mirrors that of the last special committee set up by the Republicans when they controlled the House of Representatives to investigate the attack on the US consulate in Benghazi.
Both Pelosi and McCarthy have remained silent about who they will vote for on the committee. Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) Is the current top candidate for the chairman. He heads the House Homeland Security Committee.
Democrats said this week they were concerned that McCarthy would vote for Republicans who voted against the January election results being confirmed or who are the former president’s main supporters. It is not yet clear whether McCarthy will even have Republican members on the committee, but conservative arsonists like the Reps will. Marjorie Taylor Greene from Georgia and Matt Gaetz from Florida have expressed interest.
The chairman would also have subpoena powers, which means Democrats can force testimony from former Trump staff and lawmakers, including perhaps McCarthy and others who spoke to Trump during the uprising. The Trump Justice Department routinely refused to enforce the Democratic subpoenas, but the Biden administration may be more inclined to prosecute those who refuse to appear or testify.
So far, the investigation into the events that led to several thousand Americans for hours taking control of the US Capitol has been through isolated Congressional hearings and agency watchdog reports. New details continue to be released as the Justice Department prosecutes the hundreds of people charged with playing a role.
A similar investigation by the Congressional Committee preceded the establishment of the 9/11 Commission. Pelosi hopes that such an independent commission will be possible in the future.
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