House to Vote on Creating Capitol Riot Commission
Party leaders in the House got a boost from Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader in the Senate, who said he could not support the commission in its current form.,
McConnell opposes commission to investigate the Jan. 6 riot, as G.O.P. leaders race to limit party support.
- May 19, 2021, 8:40 a.m. ET
Senator Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky and the minority leader, announced on Wednesday that he would oppose the creation of an independent commission to study the deadly Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, joining other top Republicans in an effort to bury the bipartisan proposal as it heads to a vote in the House.
Mr. McConnell’s comments represented a sharp and potentially decisive reversal just a day after he signaled he was open to supporting it. Coming just hours ahead of a House vote on legislation to establish the panel, Republican leaders were hoping they would help tamp down party support for the proposal in that chamber and doom its passage in the Senate.
“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 Jan. 6,” Mr. McConnell said on the Senate floor.
Mr. McConnell had emerged from that day as one of former President Donald J. Trump’s most outspoken Republican critics, pinning blame squarely on the former president for losing control of the House, Senate and White House and inspiring the most deadly attack on Congress in two centuries. But in the months since, as Mr. Trump has reasserted control over the party, Mr. McConnell has been increasingly reluctant to stir his ire.
Mr. Trump sought to apply his own pressure on Tuesday night, chastising Republicans to “get much tougher” and oppose the inquiry unless it was expanded to look at “murders, riots and fire bombings” in cities run by Democrats.
“Hopefully, Mitch McConnell and Kevin McCarthy are listening!” he said.
Still, Mr. McConnell’s reasoning differed sharply from Representative Kevin McCarthy of California, the party leader in the House, who urged his members to oppose any accounting of the deadly pro-Trump mob without also studying “political violence” on the left. Mr. McConnell said that he believed in getting to the bottom of what happened, but he argued investigations already underway by the Justice Department and congressional committees were sufficient.
“The facts have come out, and they will continue to come out,” he said.
His announcement came as Mr. McCarthy was facing the possibility of a wave of defections that threatened to once again drive a wedge through a party struggling to unite in the wake of Mr. Trump’s mendacious campaign to overturn the 2020 election.
A significant splintering would be particularly embarrassing for Mr. McCarthy, who after ousting his No. 3 last week for her views on Mr. Trump, vowed to unite the party around the former president ahead of the 2022 midterms.
The bipartisan House Problem Solvers Caucus, which includes 29 Republicans, formally endorsed the commission late Tuesday. Other Republicans privately said they were inclined to vote “yes” in a show of solidarity with Representative John Katko, Republican of New York, who negotiated the terms of the commission at Mr. McCarthy’s behest, only to have the leader turn around and trash the product.
Mr. Katko argued on Tuesday that the commission offered Congress the best chance to dispense with politics and really get to the bottom of an attack that most members of Congress witnessed themselves in horrid detail and both parties deemed a disastrous security failure.
“We both dispensed with our politics to do what the greater good is,” he said.
House Democrats are expected to unanimously back the commission, and President Biden formally endorsed it on Tuesday. But its fate will almost certainly be decided in the Senate, where they need at least 10 Republican votes to pass it.
Senator Chuck Schumer, Democrats of New York and the majority leader, vowed to put it up for a vote there in the coming weeks to force Republicans to choose.
“An independent commission can be the antidote to the poisonous mistruths that continue to spread about Jan. 6, and that is what our founding fathers believed in,” he said. “The American people will see for themselves whether our Republican friends stand on the side of truth or on the side of Donald Trump’s big lie.”