US House votes to set up commission on Capitol riot

By: AFP      Published: 04:38 PM, 20 May, 2021
US House votes to set up commission on Capitol riot

The US House voted Wednesday to establish a bipartisan commission to investigate January's deadly riot at the US Capitol, overcoming tensions for now amid rising Republican hostility to an independent fact-finding panel.

One day after top House Republican Kevin McCarthy came out against the commission, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell also expressed opposition, raising hurdles to Senate passage more than four months after the violence.

But the House of Representatives at least temporarily weathered a brewing storm, voting 252 to 175 to approve legislation that establishes a 10-member panel commission.

Thirty-five Republicans bucked their party's leadership and joined Democrats in supporting the effort.

"This commission is built to work, and it will be depoliticized, and it will get the results we need," House Republican John Katko, who worked with Democrats to craft a deal on the commission, told his colleagues on the floor.

"I urge all of you in the body, all of you on both sides... to set aside politics just this once -- just this once."

In January McConnell blamed Donald Trump for inciting violence at the Capitol, which was overrun by the then-president's supporters seeking to block certification of the election won by Joe Biden.

This week McConnell said he remained open to supporting a commission if changes were made to its structure, but by Wednesday he hardened his opposition.

"After careful consideration, I've made a decision to oppose the House Democrats' slanted and unbalanced proposal for another commission to study the events of January the 6th," McConnell said.

He pointed to ongoing law enforcement investigations that have already resulted in more than 400 arrests, and said a new panel might cause unnecessary overlap.

Afraid of the truth

The legislation that would create a commission evenly split between five members chosen by Democrats and five chosen by Republicans. Each side would have equal subpoena power.

But McConnell's opposition, coming a day after Trump urged Republicans to oppose it, complicates passage in the Senate.

The chamber is divided 50-50, but at least 10 Republicans would have to join Democrats for the measure to become law.

"It sounds like they (Republicans) are afraid of the truth, and that's most unfortunate," House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the top Democrat in Congress, told reporters. 

While McCarthy slammed Pelosi's tactics for the panel, Pelosi herself said she yielded to several Republican demands including a 50-50 commission split.

Some Republicans critical of the panel said it would merely serve as a vehicle to attack Trump.

Democrats will "use this to smear Trump supporters and president Trump for the next few years," warned controversial House Republican Marjorie Taylor Greene, who has peddled Trump's baseless claim that the presidential election was stolen from him.

Other Republicans say they would like broader scope to allow investigation into last year's violence at Black Lives Matter protests, but Pelosi refused.

She said the panel would be similar to the high-profile 9/11 commission created in 2002.

That body's two chairs, former New Jersey governor Tom Kean and ex-congressman Lee Hamilton, have endorsed a January 6 commission.

"As we did in the wake of September 11, it's time to set aside partisan politics and come together as Americans in common pursuit of truth and justice," the pair said in a statement Wednesday.