U.S. House set to vote on commission to probe deadly Capitol attack

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. House of Representatives on Wednesday is expected to pass a measure that would create a commission to investigate the deadly Jan. 6 Capitol attack by Donald Trump’s supporters, testing Republican loyalty to the former president, who has denounced the proposal.

FILE PHOTO: A member of the National Guard salutes while the remains of Capitol Police officer Brian Sicknick lay in honor in the Rotunda of the U.S. Capitol building after he died on Jan. 7 from injuries he sustained while protecting the U.S. Capitol during the Jan. 6 attack on the building. REUTERS/Brendan Smialowski

Democrats narrowly control the House and expect to pass the measure even if they do not draw much Republican support. Its fate is less certain in the Senate. That chamber’s top Republican, Mitch McConnell, on Tuesday said he has “pushed the pause button” on the idea.

Multiple senior Republicans on Tuesday objected to the formation of a commission, whose proposed investigation could scrutinize Trump’s role in inspiring the attack with false claims that last year’s presidential election was stolen from him through widespread voting fraud. In the evenly split Senate, Republicans can block the legislation. At least 60 votes are needed to advance most bills in the 100-member Senate.

The 10-member panel would be modeled after a bipartisan commission created to investigate the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States by al Qaeda militants. It would face a Dec. 31 deadline to produce a public report, including recommendations for preventing another attack on the Capitol.

Trump on Tuesday urged Republicans to vote against the proposal, calling it a “trap” inspired by “the radical left.” House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy, who spoke with Trump by telephone Jan. 6 and announced his opposition to the commission on Tuesday, could also be a key witness for the commission.

The commission would be charged with looking at security and intelligence failures surrounding Jan. 6, when Trump’s supporters stormed the Capitol in a riot that left five people dead. The mob interrupted the formal congressional certification of Democrat Joe Biden’s victory over Trump in the November election.

Trump also faces a new criminal investigation of his family company, the Trump Organization, by the New York attorney general’s office. It is looking into whether the sprawling enterprise falsely reported property values to secure loans and win economic and tax benefits.

Congressional Republicans risk drawing Trump’s ire if they vote for the commission, which could call the former president as a witness to explain his actions including an incendiary speech to supporters shortly before the riot. Opposing the commission could alienate independent voters troubled by the violence.

Some lawmakers fear that a failure to create an independent commission could hurt chances that the U.S. public will learn the full story about the effort to overturn the results of the 2020 election.

“An independent 9/11-style review is critical to removing the politics surrounding Jan. 6,” Republican Representative John Katko told the House Rules Committee on Tuesday.

Katko, a co-sponsor of the legislation, added, “This is about facts, it’s not about partisan politics.”

House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Bennie Thompson, a Democrat who crafted the bipartisan measure with Katko, on Wednesday told MSNBC he was optimistic the bill would be approved by the House and Senate.

U.S. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, a Democrat, has vowed to bring the bill to the chamber floor for a vote. At least two Republican senators – Lisa Murkowski and Mitt Romney – have signaled support, according to media reports.

McCarthy and McConnell have complained that the commission should do more than concentrate on Jan. 6 by investigating other “political violence.” Some Republicans want an investigation of the shooting of Republican congressman Steve Scalise during a practice at a baseball field in 2017 that left him gravely wounded and of protests in many U.S. cities last year against racism and police brutality.

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